The Boston Red Sox have announced their signing of free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez. Martinez spent last season with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Between the two clubs, Martinez hit a career best 45 home runs and drove in 104 runs. The Boston Red Sox were lacking in the home run department last season, hitting an American League worst 168 home runs as a team. The American League East rival New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge and freshly acquired right fielder Giancarlo Stanton combined for 111 home runs. Judge hit an AL best 52 home runs while Stanton hit a National League and MLB best 59 home runs for the Miami Marlins.
The signing of Martinez will be problematic for somebody on the Boston Red Sox roster. Martinez is expected to play right field, a position recently held by all-star Mookie Betts. Betts playing center for the Sox is not out of the ordinary, but that switch would move all-star center fielder Jackie Bradley, Jr. Bradley, who is an inconsistent hitter, has arguably the best arm in baseball. His defensive skills set him apart from the rest of the Red Sox players, but his streaky bat is less than desirable. Left field will be played by 2017 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi hit 20 home runs, drove in 90 runs and stole 20 bases in his first full season with the Red Sox. With him and Betts being too valuable to play less or trade, Bradley Jr. may potentially be on the move.
Should Martinez be put into the lineup as designated hitter, it would throw a wrench in Hanley Ramirez’s role in the organization. Ramirez signed a four year/ $88 million contract with the Sox in 2015. Ramirez hit 23 home runs and drove in 62 runs in the 2017 season. Ramirez plans to bring those numbers up this season.
“You’re gonna see it, for sure. Literally, I was hitting with one arm last year and I hit 23 [home runs]. Now that I feel good, there are not going to be excuses. Better go out there and hit 30,” Ramirez said in a story on ESPN.
Though Ramirez has high hopes for 2018, even his role might be diminished to platoon playing time. Back in December, the Sox re-signed their 2017 first baseman Mitch Moreland to a two year/ $13 million deal. Moreland, an all-star as well, is expected to make starts against right handed pitchers. The lefty slugger hit 22 home runs and a career best 34 doubles for the Red Sox in 2017.
The Red Sox will have further position battles down the line when former MVP Dustin Pedroia returns from the disabled list. To fill his void before Opening Day, the Red Sox signed utility player Eduardo Nunez. Nunez joined the Red Sox last season around the trade deadline after leaving the San Francisco Giants. Nunez bat .321 and slugged eight home runs in just 38 games with the team.
So the Red Sox have platoon first basemen in Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland, platoon designated hitters in J.D. Martinez and Hanley Ramirez, platoon right fielders in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, and potentially platoon second basemen in Eduardo Nunez and Dustin Pedroia. It will be interesting to see how Alex Cora juggles his lineup on a day-to-day basis.