After finishing his two-year contract with the Red Sox in 2019, Mitch Moreland heads back to Boston on a one year deal with a 2021 club option.
Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Red Sox made a move late this afternoon by bringing back Mitch Moreland. The first baseman has played in Boston since 2017 and has been a consistent member of the lineup.
While this wasn’t the earth-shattering Mookie Betts trade many Red Sox fans have been expecting, this deal rewards the veteran first baseman for his time in Boston. Considering the small market for first baseman this offseason, it’s not surprising the Red Sox were willing to buy low on Moreland.
He won’t play 160+ games anymore as shown by his 91 game campaign in 2019. He also won’t hit towards the top of the order, likely sliding in at the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup. However, he does seem to still have some pop in his bat as he cranked an .835 OPS (112 OPS+) in 2019, the best season in his career if you go by OPS.
While this move won’t define the 2019-2020 Red Sox offseason, it is a step towards remaining in contention in 2020. Moreland is a great bounce-back candidate as he was critical in the 2018 World Series run – hitting a game-tying 3-run HR against the Dodgers in game 4.
However, this signing may not have been the best move possible for the Red Sox. Boston’s farm system is relatively barren, but the one spot they have excelled at is developing corner infielders. Players such as Devers, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Triston Casas, Sam Travis (came up as a first baseman, but was traded to the Rangers), among some.
With Moreland signing, he takes up a spot for one of those young players. Dalbec was in line to be the Red Sox first baseman next year, I even thought he had a chance at winning the 2020 Rookie of the Year award. Now with Moreland set to be the everyday first baseman, it is unlikely Dalbec will be able to get consistent playing time in 2020.
Also, Chavis could have played first base in 2020. He split time between first and second base in 2019 but ended the season due to an injury. During a play at second base, Chavis sprained his shoulder. Now he will have to play out of position again in 2020 and possibly further injure himself.
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Lastly, Devers is a defensively challenged third baseman. While he makes up for his errors with above-average range and arm, he still seems to be the type of player to transition to a first baseman. However, considering Moreland is only guaranteed one more year with the Red Sox this shouldn’t be as big of an issue.
Another issue with re-signing Moreland is that the money could have been spent on a different former Red Sox player, Brock Holt. Holt provides more utility defensively than Moreland and more consistent offensive production. He hit nearly .300 for the 2019 season after dealing with a scratched cornea to derail his first two months of the season.
Overall, bringing back Moreland isn’t the worst move the Red Sox could have made, but it is by no means perfect. The veteran blocks out a young star in Dalbec and fills a need the Red Sox didn’t have too big of a hole at. For example, the $3 million Moreland will make in 2020 could be spent towards a relief pitcher and add depth to a depleted bullpen. One thing is clear though, Moreland will be Boston’s first baseman in 2020.