The Red Sox finally made the long awaited free agent signing that many expected them to make during the winter meetings in December. On Monday, the team signed outfielder J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million contract. Martinez entered free agency as one of the top targets in all of baseball, and is coming off a career year which saw him blast 45 home runs (HR) in only 119 games. The slugger also drove in 104 runs and had a 303 batting average (AVG). Martinez is filling the void of a much needed power hitter that Boston could have used all of last season. The 30-year-old will be joining a young, but promising Red Sox team that will have lofty expectations in the upcoming season.
My projected lineup: Mookie Betts, right field; Andrew Benintendi, left field; Hanley Ramirez, first base; J.D. Martinez, designated hitter; Xander Bogaerts, shortstop; Rafael Devers, third base; Eduardo Nunez, second base; Jackie Bradley, Jr., center field and Christian Vazquez, catcher.
Most of this lineup should be set in stone, with the question marks coming from second base and first base. Obviously the designated hitter (DH) role will primarily be Martinez’s, with him seeing some outfield time on certain days, but what will Boston do at first base? Manager Alex Cora has said that he wants Ramirez starting out the season hitting third, with Betts and Benintendi being locked in as his number one and two hitters. The first-year manager seems to think highly of the 34-year-old whose 2017 numbers dropped off significantly from a year ago. Either way he has options at the position with the team having resigned first-baseman Mitch Moreland to a team friendly two-year $13 million contract. Moreland has never posted the best numbers, but he’s been consistent and plays good defense, even having won a gold glove in 2016. Throughout the season you can probably expect him and Ramirez to split playing time, depending on who the opposing pitcher is. Either way, the issue is not a terrible one to have if you’re Boston.
Until Dustin Pedroia returns at the end of May from off-season knee surgery, the Red Sox will need to find a temporary replacement. The most viable option seems to be Nunez, who recently resigned on a one-year contract. The Red Sox acquired the infielder from San Francisco last July. In the 38 games he played in Beantown, the Dominican Republic native eclipsed expectations, slashing a line of 8 HR, 27 RBI and a 321 AVG, while holding his own at second base (he started 25 games there). He’s earned the right to start the majority of the games until Pedroia returns, especially with insurance behind him with utility players such as Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez.
After second and first base, the Red Sox appear to be entering the season with a set lineup. Expect Betts and Bogaerts to bounce back after subpar seasons. Another player to keep an eye on is Devers, who impressed in his two months in the big leagues. The 21-year-old displayed exceptional opposite field power, where five of his 10 HR went. The biggest issue will be if a full offseason was long enough for him to fix his third base struggles. Either way, Red Sox fans should have plenty to look forward to when the season starts in less than two months.