Justin Morneau has had a good career so far, yet he remains a free agent. Should the Boston Red Sox consider him if he doesn’t cost much?
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported that “nothing has materialized for the former AL MVP. He still hasnâ€™t announced his retirement, either. The Indians had interest prior to signing Mike Napoli.” The 34-year-old native of British Columbia, Canada won the batting title in 2014 with a .319 average, with 17 home runs and 82 RBIs. He also hit a slash line of .310/.363/.458 last season, however it was only in 49 games for the Colorado Rockies.
The reason for the lack of play was regarding cervical strain and concussion symptoms that he was suffering back in May, which kept him on the shelf until September. In November, Morneau elected for free agency, where he still stands as of today.
Before the buyout clause was used, paying him only $750 thousand, Morneau was paid $6.75 million for that last full season with the Rockies. Considering that he isn’t getting much attention from any MLB team offers, at least not enough to actually sign, Morneau may come as a bargain.
So, with that in mind, should the Red Sox try to sign him?
It’s not a terrible idea, but it may be not the best one.
Morneau has played much longer than Hanley Ramirez at first base, so signing him would give the Red Sox a proven starter at the position. In 1 324 games at first, spanning 13 seasons, Morneau posted a .996 fielding percentage, which he has been around for almost his entire career. Even in the last two years, Morneau had a .997 percentage, committing only five errors in 175 games. And, with his bat, Morneau is also projected, by Baseball-Reference.com, to hit at least .283 with 9 homers and 42 RBIs. Ramirez is only projected to be hitting .273 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs, granted that his batting average is deflated because of last season’s injuries and his production is inflated, compared to Morneau, by being on one of the more offensive MLB teams.
Numbers are one thing, but the most important number that cancels out the rest is age. That and Travis Shaw.
The current plan for the Red Sox is for Ramirez to take his big contract and wait it out until designated hitter, and future Hall-of-Famer, David Ortiz retires so that Han-Ram can assume the position in 2017. That’s the only reason why Ramirez is playing first base: they want his bat in the lineup but also don’t want him to get injured or screw up the defence in the field. The hope is that his hands will be good enough this season, and then let him just hit like he has in the past. When that happens, Shaw seems the likely man to take over first base.
Shaw is only 25 years old and being paid pennies, at least until 2019 when he’s eligible for arbitration. His .993 fielding percentage at first base last season was very remarkable, considering that he was only brought up from the minors to fill in the gaps left by the aging veterans, through injuries, poor play, or even being traded a la Napoli. Yet, Shaw’s bat also impressed by being fairly good against MLB pitching so early in his short career. He hit .270 with 13 home runs and 36 RBIs in only 65 games. Already in spring training, Shaw has hit .526 with two homers and eight RBIs in just 19 at-bats.
The kicker is that Shaw hits from the left as well, canceling out any advantage that Morneau had in that category, other than his experience at the plate.
If the Red Sox were to sign Morneau, it would have to be a short-term contract, even only a year if they felt that they could make a championship run this year. However, the possibility that it would happen before the season starts seems far-fetched. Only if Ortiz suddenly forgot how to hit or Ramirez stubbed his toe on first and was out on the 60-day disabled list would a big bat be needed like Morneau’s. Even then, who’s to say Shaw wouldn’t be ready to take over?
That is, unless Pablo Sandoval completely collapses at third base. Place your bets on that, everyone!