Replacing Ortiz at DH a tall order for Red Sox

Ramirez a frontrunner, though committee option also a possibility

Replacing Ortiz at DH a tall order for Red Sox

BOSTON -- There is no doubt that David Ortiz's retirement leaves an enormous void in the Red Sox's clubhouse. But for the first time in 14 years, his absence also leaves a looming question mark in Boston's formidable lineup.

Big Papi slashed .286/.380/.552 over a long, illustrious career as the designated hitter for the Red Sox. As a 40-year-old, the slugger belted 38 home runs with 127 RBIs during his final season, leading the Major Leagues with 48 doubles. Red Sox manager John Farrell said he doesn't believe a hitter with the potential to replicate Ortiz's power exists.

"I don't know that you ever replace David Ortiz," Farrell said. "I don't know that that's possible, given how dynamic of a person he is, what he means to this city, what he means to our organization. So setting those components aside -- when you're looking at the number of years he's been here, the success he's had, the outreach he's had to so many different people -- that takes time to replace, if ever."

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has his work cut out for him this offseason, whether that means grabbing a free agent within a reasonable price range or molding a player from the organization to fill the role.

For now, Boston's likely DH candidate is Hanley Ramirez, the first baseman throughout 2016. He finished the season with 30 home runs, 111 RBIs and an .866 OPS. Dombrowski said he's entertaining the idea of mixing Ramirez at both first and DH in 2017.

"He might be both," Dombrowski said. "I don't really know that answer. I think he's capable of doing both. To me, he did a fine job at first base. Personally, I like the availability of the option of doing both, because I think that if you have that flexibility, it probably fits with us better with the personnel that we have going forward. But we also have to have conversations with Hanley, too, before we get to that point."

Thus, the Red Sox may go with a DH by committee. Besides Ramirez, most of Boston's impact hitters are also exceptional position players -- namely Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia.

Filling Ortiz's place in the lineup will take time and effort, and even though it may not have sunk in that his large, infectious smile won't be around the clubhouse anymore, Farrell believes his team will be just fine.

"There's leadership in every corner of our clubhouse. We're going to miss David, that's obvious. But in terms of adding and maintaining that core direction from our players, that's in place," Farrell said.

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.