Mitch Moreland, 35, is one of the best players remaining on the Major League Baseball free-agent market, and he still has a lot to offer big-league clubs.
Moreland posted a .265 batting average, an .894 OPS, a 139 OPS+, 10 home runs and 29 RBI across split time with the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres in MLB’s 60-game regular season. He also finished in the top 9 percent of the sport in barrel percentage (14.4 percent). The year prior, he posted an .835 OPS with the Red Sox.
The left-handed hitter provides pop. He has a resounding, power swing that generates slug, which has helped him be one of the more productive first basemen in MLB in recent memory. Defensively, he holds his own at the corner infield position.
Given the abundance of position players who have inked contracts this offseason, the first baseman is poised to reel in a short-term, team-friendly contract. Here are three teams who would benefit from signing Moreland.
Miguel Sano is manager Rocco Baldelli's likely starting first baseman next season. That said, Sano has missed considerable time due to injuries over the last few seasons and hit just .204 last year. Moreland could back up Sano, giving him a day off once a week. Heck, maybe in time the two infielders platoon with Moreland starting against right-handers and Sano starting against left-handers? Also Nelson Cruz is 40: He’s going to get a day off every here and there even as the DH.
If he outplays Sano, Moreland can become the Twins’ full-time first baseman. Minnesota has a lot of middle infield depth but minimal, if any options behind Sano with Marwin Gonzalez departing for Boston. Moreland also brings a bevy of postseason experience to the table (150 playoff plate appearances), an area where the Twins continue to stumble. Maybe the veteran can come through with a clutch hit to get them over the hump? You never know who the postseason hero is going to be.
Taking a flier on Moreland can only help the Twins.
The time is now for the White Sox, and Moreland would further weaponize a team that’s primed to be a player in the American League.
Now, do the White Sox need another bat? They do not. They’d be wise to add another reliever or two, but that doesn’t mean they should refrain from adding positional depth. Moreland could be Chicago’s designated hitter from the jump. Hitting alongside the likes of Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez, among many others, Moreland would make an already formidable offense overwhelming.
Concurrently, Moreland would be the backup first baseman, stepping in for Abreu if need be. No matter how deep a contender is, they can never have enough depth, especially in the contact tracing day and age.
Albeit they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, the Padres went all-in at last season’s MLB trade deadline by adding a plethora of players, some of whom they didn’t even need; they were added for depth’s sake. Ironically, Mitch Moreland was part of that roster shuffling and could be part of similar roster building with the White Sox.
Yep, the three teams that should pursue Moreland are in the AL Central, and Cleveland makes the most sense out of the teams who reside in said division.
As is, Cleveland has an uncertain first base situation, which Moreland would clear up. He’d be its Day 1 starter and provide a veteran infield captain to play alongside youngsters like Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez.
Offensively, Moreland would add another well-rounded hitter to manager Terry Francona's lineup. Last season, Cleveland was in the bottom third of MLB in runs, hits, home runs, batting average and OPS. The team made the playoffs because of its starting rotation. The offense has to pick up the slack next season.
From a mentality standpoint, this would be an offense mostly made up of players who were given up on by other teams and/or are trying to prove themselves. Maybe Cleveland’s conglomerate of talent accrued by trading franchise players over the last three years (Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer) can keep the team in the mix in 2021? Plus, from a raw production standpoint, substituting in Moreland, Rosario, Gimenez and Eddie Rosario for Lindor isn’t too shabby.