Not exactly crazy about this move, if we’re being 100% honest. The Red Sox bring in Mitch Moreland on a one-year deal, presumably to be their first baseman? Not sure what the plan is there, but that’s what he is.
There’s a few things to dissect when it comes to this addition, and I think the biggest one is that, if they weren’t already, this signing puts Boston completely out on Edwin Encarnacion. I was starting to talk myself into a Yoenis Cespedes-type deal where the Red Sox signed him to something like a three-year contract worth $75 million with a first-year opt-out, just because his market had diminished so much so quickly, but the Moreland signing shuts the door on that completely, one would assume. The Red Sox were also rumored to be seriously interested in Mike Napoli, and I had it on good word that Napoli would’ve loved to have returned to Boston, but that’s not happening now, either.
Offensively, I’m not sure what excited the Red Sox all that much to jump on Moreland when there were better options out there. Last year, Moreland hit .233 with a .720 OPS, 22 homers, 21 doubles, and 60 RBI. In fairness, Moreland hit .278 with an .812 OPS, 23 homers, 27 doubles, and 85 RBI in 2015, so it sounds like the Red Sox are banking on bringing in that Mitch Moreland, not the one that we saw last year. Defensively, I can’t say I’ve paid too much attention to him at first base, nor have I heard anyone sing his praises as a defensive wizard, but if you buy into defensive metrics, which I don’t, then he was sixth in defensive runs saved (7) among all major league first basemen last year, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Last year, Moreland hit lefties better than he hit righties, but that doesn’t follow the trend that he’s been on over his seven-year career. That, and he’s not particularly dominant against either. In his career, he has a .673 OPS against lefties, and a .778 OPS against righties. Specifically in 2016, he had a .700 OPS against righties, and a .799 OPS against lefties.
In all, I feel very meh about the Moreland signing. It’s not dreadful, but I was definitely hoping for more. I’m not really sure what that “more” was going to be, but it wasn’t this. I guess when you lose David Ortiz, you expect more than just Mitch Moreland. Shit, I would’ve been happy with Napoli, but I was sort of hoping that Dave Dombrowski would get creative and look outside the free agent market at somebody like Victor Martinez. Seemed like a great fit as a DH replacement for Ortiz in the short term, and it keeps Hanley Ramirez on the field. I’ve heard some whispers that the Red Sox are a little concerned about that, and that they think Hanley will perform better offensively if he’s more engaged defensively. Well, they just signed a first baseman, so does that mean that Hanley’s their full-time DH now? If he is, that would completely contradict the whole “We want Hanley to play the field in order to stay more engaged” plan.
It seems like, instead of going with the most productive option available on the market, the Red Sox went with the cheapest option in order to stay under the luxury tax threshold. It also doesn’t hurt that Moreland is a lefty bat, which helps balance out a lineup that features a decent amount of right-handed hitters.