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Who's on first? Red Sox have options for '18

Hosmer, Santana lead free-agent crop, while Hanley headlines internal options
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- As the Red Sox plot out their offseason, one of the key questions is this: Who will be the primary first baseman for the club in 2018?

The good news is that there's currently quite a bit of supply on the market, giving president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski many potential directions in which to go.

BOSTON -- As the Red Sox plot out their offseason, one of the key questions is this: Who will be the primary first baseman for the club in 2018?

The good news is that there's currently quite a bit of supply on the market, giving president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski many potential directions in which to go.

Hot Stove Tracker

It is no secret the Red Sox are trying to improve their production as a unit, and first base is often a position associated with offensive-minded players.

Depending on how the market develops, Dombrowski could acquire a high-impact first baseman or find a modest contributor. He could also stay in-house.

Here is a look at the options the Red Sox are likely to explore in the coming weeks.

Eric Hosmer: Without question, Hosmer is the most accomplished first baseman on the free-agent market, which means he will come at a substantial price. The left-handed hitter is very much in his prime at 28 years old and played a substantial role in helping the Royals win the World Series in 2015. Hosmer has a reputation as a valued leader in the clubhouse as well. Hosmer's .882 OPS in '17 was the best of his career, and he hit 25 homers for the second straight year. He is a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, including this past season.

If the Red Sox acquire Hosmer, he would likely be their biggest prize of the offseason. If Boston instead signs J.D. Martinez or makes a trade for Giancarlo Stanton, it will likely go with a more affordable option at first.

Carlos Santana: The switch-hitter would be a nice consolation prize for a team that loses out on Hosmer. Santana has flourished for a winning Indians squad the last couple of years. Though he went from 34 homers in 2016 to 23 in '17, Santana still produced a sturdy .818 OPS and he's always had a good eye. Playing in so many big games in recent years would prepare Santana well for Boston.

Video: Feinsand on Santana being best bargain in free agency

Jose Abreu: The White Sox, who traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox a year ago, are still in rebuild mode. Perhaps the sides could meet up again for another big deal. The Sox were confident in their chances to land Abreu as an international free agent four years ago, but lost out to the White Sox. Here is their chance to make up for it. Abreu has been a model of consistency for the White Sox, producing 100-plus RBIs the last four seasons while hitting 30 or more homers in three of those years.

Hanley Ramirez: Ramirez would be the most productive in-house option to start at first base for the Red Sox. Though shoulder woes limited him to 17 starts at first in 2017, Dombrowski expects Hanley will be healthy enough to return to defense on a full-time basis if the team needs him to. Ramirez started 133 games at first in '16, and seemed more engaged and productive than when he was the primary DH. If Ramirez goes back to first and vacates the DH slot, Dombrowski could be more flexible when it comes to the position of a potential hitting acquisition.

Mitch Moreland: If Dombrowski is successful in landing a big prize like Stanton or Martinez, an affordable reunion with Moreland could be in store at first base. A year ago, the Red Sox signed the veteran to a one-year, $5.5 million deal, and it worked well (22 homers, 79 RBIs) for both sides. Moreland would like to get a multiyear deal this time around. But if he can't find one, a reunion with the Red Sox could be comfortable for everyone.

Logan Morrison: For the first time in Morrison's career, he got over 500 at-bats in 2017. And that led to a breakout season, in which Morrison smashed 38 homers and had an .868 OPS for the Rays. Was that season a sign of things to come for the 30-year-old, or will Morrison revert back to the platoon player who averaged 14 homers the previous six seasons? The Red Sox would have to be fairly convinced of the former to sign the left-handed hitter as their starting first baseman.

Video: Rogers on sleeper free agents Morrison, Cozart

Yonder Alonso: Alonso's rise was similarly dramatic to the one Morrison enjoyed. After hitting seven homers in 482 at-bats in 2016, Alonso went deep 28 times in 451 at-bats for the Athletics and Mariners in '17 and had an .866 OPS. The left-handed hitter was the lone All-Star for Oakland last season, but he might be more of a platoon player.

Adam Lind: If the Red Sox go to the platoon route, they could do a lot worse than the left-handed-hitting Lind. He is coming off a productive season for the Nationals, when he hit 14 homers, batted .303 and had an .875 OPS in 301 plate appearances. Lind played with the Blue Jays for nine seasons, so he'd feel at home in a return to the American League East.

Sam Travis: When the Red Sox signed Moreland to a one-year deal last year, part of the thinking was that Travis would be ready to take over first base in 2018 and beyond. There isn't quite that same confidence level a year later, mainly because the right-handed hitter wound up with six homers and 24 RBIs in 82 games at Triple-A Pawtucket. However, it should be noted that Travis was coming off a major injury -- a torn ACL in his left knee -- and that could have played a role in his limited production. After a normal offseason of training, Travis might be ready to become the solid producer many scouts have projected. Travis is ranked third among Red Sox prospects by MLBPipeline.com.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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