Hanley may be first baseman for Sox in '18

Hanley may be first baseman for Sox in '18

It had been widely assumed the Red Sox would acquire a first baseman this offseason to replace free agent Mitch Moreland, who is likely to sign with another club.

But there's a chance the primary first baseman in 2018 could be the primary first baseman from '16.

Speaking at the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said the club has had plenty of discussions over the last week about Hanley Ramirez playing first base next season.

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Ramirez was primarily a DH in 2017. But after undergoing left shoulder surgery, the hope is that he will be more able to play first going forward.

"The doctor feels he will be able to do that," Dombrowski said. "As a matter of fact, when [manager] Alex [Cora] was here yesterday, we had a conversation about that topic. Alex feels that [Ramirez will] be able to play first base for us."

How much first base?

"We can count on him to play first base for us like he did in 2016," Dombrowski said.

In '16, Ramirez played 133 games at first. He played just 18 games at first in '17.

Having the option of playing Ramirez at first allows Dombrowski flexibility when it comes to shopping for the productive hitter the Red Sox are seeking this winter.

If acquiring a first baseman was a necessity, the Sox would be big players for Eric Hosmer. Perhaps they still will be, but outfielder J.D. Martinez could end up being their top target on the free-agent market.

Is Hosmer a fit for Boston?

Because Martinez was traded during the 2017 season, the Red Sox wouldn't have to part with a compensatory pick in the MLB Draft if they signed him. They would have to do so for Hosmer.

Martinez clubbed 45 homers in '17, third-most in the Majors behind Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Dombrowski has history with Martinez, having signed him previously while GM in Detroit.

Red Sox's free agency

Then, there are the Stanton sweepstakes. MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported recently the Red Sox were one of the teams engaged in talks with the Marlins.

Stanton is owed $295 on his contract and has a full no-trade clause. If the Marlins are looking for top prospects, the Red Sox might not be the best fit, having moved several top Minor Leaguers the last two years in trades for Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale.

"I still think we have enough depth. Do we want to do that? I'm not saying that," Dombrowski said. "We have to be careful at some point. We've traded a lot of young guys. We're trying to rebuild our system a little bit at the same time the last couple of years with our Draft picks. I think we've started that process pretty well.

"We do have some guys that are close. We have a couple of guys that we've protected already. We're going to protect more guys on our big league roster. But you have to be careful in that regard, and I do think that we have a lot of good players already, that are really good, that you're trying to supplement or complement and find the right guys. I'm not really looking to trade a bunch of young guys. Now, could we? Perhaps. Again, I can't tell you that we won't, but it's a situation where I haven't felt restricted so far."

After winning back-to-back American League East titles, Dombrowski is looking for some tweaks this offseason that can help the Red Sox carry their regular-season success into the postseason.

"We have a really good foundation of players that we like and really can be a foundation for years to come. I've also been open-minded to anything that takes place," Dombrowski said. "We're not looking to overhaul our team. We're looking to fine-tune our team. We made a change with the staff. I think Alex will bring something to help us out in that regard. But I think it's a situation where, again, you're open-minded to anything, but we're really not looking to make a major overhaul with our club."

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.