For being a relatively minor move, the Red Sox resigning Mitch Moreland to a two-year, $13 million has proven to be a surprisingly divisive topic among the fanbase. As hard as Dave Dombrowski tries to sell people on the idea that he’s happy with the offensive potential he’s already assembled, he’s clearly going to make another move. The addition of one replacement-level first baseman to a below-average offense isn’t going to cut it, and Dombrowski knows that. For better or for worse, Dombrowski gets his guy, and I think it’s pretty clear another move is coming. Presumably, that move is signing J.D. Martinez, but I think that even if Martinez slips through their grasp and lands back in Arizona or DC, the Red Sox still make a significant move. (Although for the sake of what’s left in the farm system, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.)
Outside the type of production that Moreland brings to the Red Sox, which Brett Cowett went into a few weeks back, the move gives provides an interesting insight how they’re evaluating the first base position heading into 2018.
If this were four years ago, Eric Hosmer leaves the Winter Meetings in a Red Sox jersey. I don’t think it plays a major role in day-to-day decision making, and every year is different, but I can’t help but feel like the handful of misfires over the past couple offseasons have scared the Red Sox away from going after Hosmer as hard as they otherwise would. Martinez isn’t a safe bet, but packaging Hosmer’s flawed hitting with his intangibles as a leader felt a lot like pairing Sandoval’s declining numbers with his postseason experience, or Hanley’s inconsistency with his desire to come back to the team that drafted him. I just don’t think the Red Sox were ready to put their chips on that color again.
The move’s also a pretty strong indictment of the role the team has in mind for Hanley Ramirez going forward. He’s already making $22 million this year, and only needs 497 plate appearances to cash in on another guaranteed $22 million in 2019. Durability isn’t on his side, but just try and imagine how awkward that situation becomes in August if Hanley has a healthy but unproductive year. That’s another incentive to get a deal done with Martinez; from an optics perspective, it’s a lot easier to get away with giving Hanley’s PAs to Martinez than it is giving them to Sam Travis. My gut says the team wants to give him one more shot at hitting lower in the lineup with a healthy shoulder, but his days in Boston are pretty clearly numbered. The idea of him not making next year’s team isn’t inconceivable anymore.
For his career, Mitch Moreland has been just below league average (98 wRC+, .263 TAv) at the plate. There’s obviously a chance he doesn’t break any toes next year and puts up consistently good numbers, but as a 32-year old with eight years experience, it’s pretty clear that he is what he is. Even with the time missed from breaking said toe, Moreland played in more games last year than he ever had before. Quickly, before I wrap up this Mitch Moreland-y assessment of Mitch Moreland, a quick player comparison:
Mitch Moreland in 2017 (576 PAs): .246/.326/.443, 98 wRC+, 22 HRs, 0.48 BB/K
Player B in 2017 (553 PAs): .242/.320/.429, 93 wRC+, 23 HRs, 0.44 BB/K
Player B? Why that’s Hanley Ramirez! Last year, Moreland was essentially Hanley Ramirez with better defense, and I’ll let you choose who that speaks more about.
Fellow BP Bostonian Matthew Kory put it best:
Mitch Moreland is not good. Giving him two years is bad. Spending $13M to avoid giving Eric Hosmer $175M is a damn bargain
— Matthew Kory (@mattymatty2000) December 18, 2017
The good news is that the Red Sox avoided giving another lengthy contract to a flawed hitter. It’s a safe, albeit expensive, insurance policy. Just go sign Martinez and none of this will matter anymore.
Photo by Ken Blaze – USA TODAY Sports