Prior to the signing of Mitch Moreland’s 1-year $5.5 million contract, the Red Sox first base role had been filled by a noteworthy player for a very long time. Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Napoli, and Hanley Ramirez were all players whom the Red Sox fans had general idea of before they showed up to spring training ready to start the season. Youkilis came up through the Sox farm system, Gonzalez was the main piece of the blockbuster deal that sent Anthony Rizzo to San Diego, Mike Napoli had been killing the Red Sox for a solid 6 years before his Red Sox debut, and even Hanley had a reputation as a premiere hitter despite his first year struggles in Boston (Don’t worry Hanley, we’ll blame that one on Ben Cherington for putting you in left field).
All I knew was that he probably didn’t have David Ortiz type power, he probably didn’t have Mookie Betts type speed, and his hair was likely not anywhere near the level of Andrew Benintendi. I strongly believed that we had just signed a Travis Shaw clone to be our everyday first baseman, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset about it. However, upon doing some research I discovered that Moreland was much better than anyone in Red Sox Nation would have anticipated.
Despite having a down year in 2016 hitting just .233, Moreland still managed to hit 22 homers and knock in 60 runs for Texas last season. The RBI numbers should increase when taking into consideration that he is joining 2016’s top run scoring offense, so as long as he can bounce back to hit somewhere around his career average of .254 with 20-25 home runs then the Sox should be in good shape offensively. He’s not going to replace the iconic David Ortiz 30-100 seasons, but now that we have 3 aces in our rotation he shouldn’t have to. If Moreland can sustain what he has done in Texas over the past 7 seasons, I’d be more than happy with John Farrell penciling him in the lineup each day.
More notably, Mitch Moreland was the winner of the 2016 AL Gold Glove Award for first basemen. In 1080 ⅔ innings at first base last season, Mitch made a grand total of 2 errors. This left Moreland with a .998 fielding percentage, and an impressive accolade to throw in the faces of Red Sox fans who are still mad at Dombrowski for signing him instead of Encarnacion or Bautista. While Hanley exceeded expectations at first base last year, the signing of Moreland takes a lot of pressure off the Red Sox infielders (particularly Xander Bogaerts) who tend to throw the ball a little off target. Not to mention, it gives Gary Sanchez someone less valuable to annihilate next time there’s a collision at first base.
Following the Red Sox scrimmage with Northeastern University, fans are more likely to keep Moreland’s name in mind as he got his first homer in a Red Sox uniform out of the way. No, I’m not trying to hype him up for taking a college pitcher deep. The point is now that he is in the spotlight, we should take a moment to acknowledge that he has the potential to be a solid every day player in 2017. And just as the icing on the cake, we got to see Sam Travis go deep and give us a glimpse of what first base may look like beyond 2017. But for now, it’s time to focus on 2017. And with that being said, don’t sleep on Mitch Moreland.
Photo: (Boston Globe)