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Inbox: How will Red Sox OF look in 2018?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from Red Sox fans
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

If the Red Sox sign J.D. Martinez, what would happen to the outfield? I've heard that Martinez wants to be in the outfield. Could another trade happen to possibly have Jackie Bradley Jr. gone and have Mookie Betts in center?
-- Preston M., Holden, Maine

You never know, but the Red Sox are very reluctant to trade Bradley because of how special his defense is in center field. The team also has him under contractual control for three more seasons. If Bradley was surprisingly traded, it would be Andrew Benintendi moving to center, not Betts.

If the Red Sox sign J.D. Martinez, what would happen to the outfield? I've heard that Martinez wants to be in the outfield. Could another trade happen to possibly have Jackie Bradley Jr. gone and have Mookie Betts in center?
-- Preston M., Holden, Maine

You never know, but the Red Sox are very reluctant to trade Bradley because of how special his defense is in center field. The team also has him under contractual control for three more seasons. If Bradley was surprisingly traded, it would be Andrew Benintendi moving to center, not Betts.

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Betts is too valuable in right field. He might be the best defender in the game at the position, and that is a big deal, considering how tough right is to play at Fenway Park. I do wonder how much this DH/OF thing is slowing down the negotiations with Martinez. In other words, if the Red Sox had an outfield vacancy, would Martinez have already signed? These are answers we won't get until he actually signs somewhere.

If the Sox sign J.D. Martinez, do you see the possibility of Hanley Ramirez playing approximately 20 games at third base against left-handed pitching, 20-30 games at first base against left-handed pitching and also games at DH to spell Martinez when he plays the outfield? I think that would be better than trading Hanley just to dump his salary.
-- Tevi D., Mattapan, Mass.

If Ramirez hits like he's capable, the Red Sox would have no interest in dumping his salary. I don't think you will see him play third base. It has been too long since he's played there, and the team doesn't want his body to take more stress than it has to, because they need his bat.

In a scenario in which the Red Sox get Martinez, my guess is that you would see Ramirez play first base against all left-handed pitchers, and also get his share of at-bats against righties, whether it's at first base or DH. There could be a healthy competition between Mitch Moreland and Ramirez for at-bats if Martinez is acquired. Competition tends to bring out the best in players.

Video: Hanley's health key for Red Sox in 2018

How is Hanley Ramirez doing this winter? Are his shoulders healing? Do the Sox think he can rebound this year and put up some good power numbers?
-- Ray F., Woodstock, Va.

Ramirez is having a productive winter. I saw him at an event last week, and he looked like he had lost some weight and was in great spirits. The hope is that the offseason surgery he had on his left shoulder will free him up and enable him to get his swing back. Two years ago, Ramirez rebounded just as people were trying to write him off. Perhaps he can do that again this season.

Do you see the Red Sox signing Craig Kimbrel to an extension?
-- Robert L., Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada

I'm sure the Red Sox will, at the very least, explore the possibility of extending Kimbrel. These discussions often take place during Spring Training. Kimbrel is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, and he would be tough to replace.

Video: Kimbrel takes home the AL Reliever of the Year Award

With Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright, the Sox should have a solid rotation. But should the team seek more starting pitching and either trade Wright or use him as a long reliever?
-- Taylor R., Framingham, Mass.

Don't forget about Eduardo Rodriguez, either. The Red Sox are hoping he is back from right knee surgery by about mid-April. At the least, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is looking for some more depth for the rotation. Look at how beneficial Doug Fister was at times last year. Every time you think you have too much pitching, you usually don't have enough.

As for Wright, I don't see much motivation to trade him. He is very affordable, and there's no reason to subtract from your pitching depth, unless there is a compelling reason for doing so.

What are the plans to cover second base until Dustin Pedroia is back?
-- Abdiel C., Daleville, Ala.

It should be an interesting competition in Spring Training for at-bats at second base between Marco Hernandez, Brock Holt and Deven Marrero. If Holt could regain his form from 2014-15, he'd be a great short-term fit to fill in for Pedroia. The Red Sox really like Hernandez, and he provided a spark off the bench before a season-ending left shoulder injury last May. Marrero hit left-handers well last season, and if he can do that again, he should at least be part of a platoon.

Why didn't the Sox call up Bryce Brentz last season? He was having an excellent season offensively, yet they didn't call him up when their offense was struggling. What do they see for him this season?
-- Jerry D., Scituate, R.I.

Here is what happened with Brentz. He was out of Minor League options, and the Red Sox didn't have a spot for him when the season started, so they had to take him off the 40-man roster. Fortunately for them, he cleared waivers and remained in the organization.

As for why Brentz wasn't called up later in the season, the Red Sox had the belief that Chris Young was eventually going to break out of his slump. It never really happened. This season, however, Brentz -- now that he is back on the 40-man roster -- should get his share of opportunities to play against lefties, at least the way the roster is currently constituted.

Will we see a change in Jason Varitek's role with the club during the Alex Cora administration?
-- Ryan B., Leominster, Mass.

The one thing you could see is Varitek working more with the Major League catchers this season. The reason for that is that Dana LeVangie, the catching instructor the past few seasons, is now the pitching coach. Other than that, Varitek will continue to keep busy in various aspects of the operation, as he has since he retired.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

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