Mitch Moreland Will Be on the Red Sox Again

How do you respond when your fiercest rival picks up Giancarlo Stanton? Well, I don’t care how you respond. Here’s how the Red Sox have responded.

Mitch Moreland, two years, $13 million. If he hits all his incentives, it’ll be $14 million instead. This isn’t something that would take the Red Sox out of the running for every free agent, but this does seem to take the Sox out of the running for Eric Hosmer. We’ll get to that.

I think there are two ways to look at this. If you want to be optimistic, you might note that Moreland injured a toe in the middle of June, and then that toe injury seems to have cascaded into a knee injury. Moreland’s 2017 splits are of some significance:

Mitch Moreland’s 2017
Split PA wRC+ Hard% Exit Velo xwOBA
Through 6/13 247 128 46% 90 0.395
After 6/15 327 76 35% 89 0.353
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Before the injuries, Moreland was really quite good! The Red Sox might figure that Moreland is healthy again, so they might figure they’ll get more of that early-season edition moving forward. At 32, Moreland isn’t young, but he’s not so old you’d expect him to fall flat on his face. There’s still some power in there, he improved his walk rate, and he’s long been a good defender at first base. It’s possible to look at this and conclude the Red Sox have a potential bargain on their hands.

Yet Moreland is coming off a 0.9 WAR season. This is where you go if you want to be pessimistic. Moreland has been in the majors for eight seasons, and only once has he been worth at least one win above replacement. His career WAR is 5.1, over 3,338 plate appearances. That’s 0.9 WAR per 600. Based on the Steamer projections, on a per-600-PA basis, Moreland ranks as the 42nd-best first baseman. There are 30 major-league baseball teams. You can see the upside in how Moreland got started this past year, but he doesn’t have a very encouraging record. This would appear to be an investment in veteran mediocrity.

The Red Sox could still conceivably try to go after J.D. Martinez. They’d have to move an outfielder, or move on from Hanley Ramirez. Neither is too high a hurdle. But the Hosmer angle is also important, because it doesn’t seem like Hosmer has a very large market at all. Maybe I’m just misreading things, or maybe it’s a consequence of Scott Boras’ sky-high price tag. In theory, if it came down, more teams could get involved. But by far the hottest suitor has been San Diego, and the competition they face might be…limited…to…Kansas City. Boston had been included in there, as a big-budget team with a positional need, but now they’re out. At this point I’d be pretty surprised if Hosmer didn’t end up with the Padres. That’s a weird sentence.

Anyhow, Hosmer is for another day. This day is for the Red Sox re-signing Mitch Moreland. It’s not a move that doesn’t have upside. That’s about as much as I think I can sell it.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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KindleT
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KindleT

In the table, it says after 6/15 Moreland had a .353 xwOBA, but he had a 76 wRC+. Did he get super, super unlucky, or is this an error?