Inbox: Which big bat will Red Sox reel in?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers fans' questions

December 7th, 2017

Who is the power hitter or bat the Red Sox are going to get?
-- @ty_walkks via Twitter

I've been pretty consistent on this one from the beginning in thinking J.D. Martinez will be the big bat who signs with Boston. The fact that Shohei Ohtani declined to speak with the Red Sox and that Giancarlo Stanton is headed elsewhere only strengthens my belief that Martinez will be a high priority. Because of the way the Red Sox are constructed as an organization at this time, a clean cash transaction would be the best way for them to acquire a power bat. Signing Martinez would not require a compensatory Draft pick because he wasn't eligible to receive a qualifying offer from the D-backs.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has good history with Martinez, signing the right-handed hitter with Detroit after his release from Houston in 2014. Given the emergence of and , two strong left-handed hitters, I think another right-handed bat is a bigger need right now for the Red Sox.
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I'm guessing Martinez's market will heat up big time now that Stanton has been traded. The toughest competition for the Red Sox will be the team that finishes second in the Stanton trade sweepstakes.
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Are the Sox going to stick it out with at DH for the final year of his contract, or will they consider trading him? Would there be any takers?
-- @therealRJJoyce via Twitter

As presently constituted, the Red Sox need Hanley's bat in the lineup. Over the years, Hanley has often come back and had a big year when people start to count him out. He had left shoulder surgery, so that could free him up to swing the bat more like he did in 2016. Currently, the Sox are keeping their options open on whether Hanley plays first or serves as the DH.

Do you see a guy like Freddie Freeman or Joey Votto being a potential trade candidate, or are the Sox only interested in free agents? Both of those two would be amazing fits.
-- @dakernal16 via Twitter

I really don't, for the same reason I've never felt the Red Sox were strong candidates to land Stanton. Boston dealt several top prospects to land and Chris Sale over the last couple of years, so it could be hard for the Red Sox to dig deeper into the pipeline to make a blockbuster trade. Also, Votto has a no-trade clause and there are no indications he wants to leave the Reds.
With all the talk of signing a first baseman, where does that leave ?
-- @C_B_M_ via Twitter

It all depends on how the rest of the offseason shakes out. If Boston winds up acquiring a big bat who plays a position besides first, Travis could get a shot to be part of the solution at first base. The Red Sox like Travis a lot from a mental standpoint, and he has a sound hitting approach. But it's unknown how productive he will be at a position typically associated with strong numbers.

What's the word on ? I haven't read anything on him.
-- @ChrisThehood420 via Twitter

As I'm sure you're aware, the market has been very slow so far this offseason on elite players, which has put players in the second tier like Nunez in even more of a holding pattern than usual. He could still be a fit for the Red Sox if the price is right, but the team has decent organizational depth to fill the void while is out in , and . I think Nunez gave the team a nice spark at the top of the order when he arrived in July, and he's a high-energy player. Stay tuned.
How do you see the Red Sox's bullpen situation playing out next year? They say they want to add another reliever, but I don't think they have room for it.
-- @J_SAB34 via Twitter

If they land the reliever they're looking for, they can make room. One thing Dombrowski has mentioned is that he'd like a solid lefty reliever to balance out all the righties. If there is a roster crunch, the Red Sox could potentially trade one of their righties to make room. That is one area on the team where they have a little duplication.
Any pitching prospects we could see contributing in the next two or three years?
-- @FatiguedWriter via Twitter

The team's top pitching prospect -- in fact, the top prospect in the entire system according to -- is Jay Groome. But Groome was drafted out of high school in 2016, and he could take a few more years to complete his development. The Red Sox don't want to rush him. It will be interesting to see how quickly some of the recent college Draft picks can develop. Tanner Houck, the 24th overall pick this past year, is No. 4 in the team's prospect rankings. Mike Shawaryn (No. 6), the former University of Maryland ace, was really solid in his first pro season, so he will be someone to watch closely in '18.
What are the Sox going to do about and next season?
-- @Peterm2915 via Twitter

Smith should be a full go after making a nice recovery from Tommy John surgery and pitching well late in the season. Things are less clear with Thornburg. It's all a matter of how healthy he will be when he shows up for Spring Training. The righty had a shoulder impingement and a subsequent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome that wiped away his 2017 season. My hunch is that the Red Sox will be conservative with him so he can be fully healthy when he does get back. That approach worked well with Smith.