The Boston Red Sox to activate Mitch Moreland, send down Marco Hernandez Tuesday for their game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Why could that be a mistake?
This afternoon, we learned that the corresponding move to clear a spot for Moreland on the active roster was that Marco Hernandez has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Moreland went on the IL with an injured quad back in late May. He came back for one game in June but was placed on the IL again soon after re-injuring it.
At the beginning of the season, the Red Sox were struggling to say the least. From the start of the season until the end of April, the team was just 13-17 and sitting in 4th place in the AL East. Moreland carried the middling offense through May with 13 home runs and 34 RBI with a .859 OPS.
Cora didn’t provide an update last night as to what the corresponding move would be once Moreland was activated, but we now know that it will be Hernandez. This move may be a mistake.
Michael Chavis has been struggling as of late, hitting just .226 with a .682 OPS in his last 15 games. Over that time span, he has struck out 18 times in 53 at-bats. If he had been put on the IL due to the back spasms that have been bothering him, the Red Sox could have moved forward with Hernandez and Brock Holt at second. Now they have three first basemen and one (and a half) second basemen.
Chavis may need some time back at the Minor League level to regain his confidence and adjust his approach to hit pitches up in the zone. He has had trouble hitting any type of velocity this season, and rival ball clubs exploited it again and again. The former first-rounder has struck out at a nearly 33 percent clip so far this season.
While the Red Sox would have lost Chavis’ ability to move around the diamond, Holt and Hernandez make up for it in his absence. Both have been tearing the cover off the ball and Hernandez, in particular, gives them better production against left-handers.
As a team, the Red Sox have struggled to hit lefties this season. In 979 plate appearances against them this season, they have combined to hit just .250 with a .750 OPS. In a small sample size, Hernandez has hit .304 against lefties this season, but with a less exciting .681 OPS. Chavis, on the other hand, has hit just .198 with a .680 OPS against them in 85 plate appearances.
What would Chavis’ placement on the IL have to do with the Red Sox second basemen? Well, Cora likely would have had Chavis split time with the two at the keystone, and over the next 13 games, the Red Sox play the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees 13 times. They need as much production as they can get, especially when the Yankees lefty-heavy bullpen comes knocking.
While yes, Chavis has more power potential than both of those players combined, his bat-to-ball skills are severely lacking at this point and the Red Sox cannot afford to see him strike out with the bases jacked over the next two weeks.
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Now the Red Sox are moving forward with trying to find playing time for two right-handed first basemen in Sam Travis and Chavis sharing the position with the left-handed Moreland. There are only so many at-bats for those three players. Unless they intend on trading one of them at the deadline, I do not understand this move.
Moreland is also a Gold Glove-caliber defender who has a career .996 fielding percentage. In 42 games at first base this season, he made just one error. Chavis has played 46 at first and made four. While Chavis has been by no means bad at first base this season, he is not Mitch Moreland who has 10 years of experience playing first base at the Major League level.
A very minute perk of re-adding Moreland is his ability to spell the Red Sox outfielders should they need it going forward. Despite not spending time out there since 2014, Moreland has played the outfield at the Major League level before.
The Red Sox do not have a true 4th outfielder, so when they are in dire straits they could throw him out there for a few innings if necessary. In 47 career games in the outfield, Moreland has a .960 fielding percentage, which is not good by any means but it is not like he’s Dylan Moore from the Seattle Mariners-level bad (go to 3:38 on the video).
Getting Moreland back is an addition for this team without having to give up any assets, just like Nathan Eovaldi is for the bullpen, his efforts Monday night aside. Hopefully, he can get back to his March/April level production for the rest of the season in Boston.