The Red Sox announced Monday that they were resigning first baseman Mitch Moreland to a 2 year, $13M contract. Our Jermaine Bowie was the first to write about the signing here. And, quite frankly, Red Sox Nation does not seem pleased:
— wagner🇩🇴 (@wags617) December 18, 2017
I’ve never seen you lose the off season so bad as you are this year.
— Nathan Swords (@coachswords) December 18, 2017
Closing in on being the third best team in the East. Thanks for the hard work.
— Scott Brown (@currahee_1942) December 18, 2017
— Sousa (@joshinho_s) December 18, 2017
The responses are flat out cancerous, mostly because they stem from a cesspool like Twitter, where baseball knowledge is minimal unless you know where to look, but also because they come from idiots like the guy in tweet #2, who can’t even string together a literate sentence.
Last season, before the winter meetings started and the Red Sox had any contact with Moreland, I said the Sox should bring him in to replace Ortiz. Not an ideal fit by any means, but it made a ton of sense to me to bring in a Gold Glove 1B with some sneaky power to be able to push Hanley Ramirez to DH. They signed him for 1 year, $5.5M and Moreland pumped out a 2 WAR season for the Sox, making him worth about 300% of what they paid him. This season, once again, Mitch Moreland is the guy I have been pushing for the Red Sox to get since the offseason started. No, he is not the sexiest acquisition by any means. In an ideal FA class, we start the 2018 season with a 1B who has been more than 4.9 bWAR over the last 3 seasons.
But this wasn’t an ideal free agent class, and there were pretty much 3 choices for 1B heading into 2018: start the season with some combination of Hanley and Sam Travis at 1B, sign Moreland, or sign one of Eric Hosmer or Carlos Santana. Santana is now a member of the Phillies. Sam Travis had a .375 SLG at AAA last year and was somehow even worse in his 83 MLB PA. Hanley was an awful defender at 1B if you look at anything other than fielding percentage (which you should never ever look at to judge defensive capabilities) and had just a .750 OPS himself. Free agent Logan Morrison could have been a good acquisition after a massive overhaul in approach led to a breakout year in 2017, but would have cost somewhere in the range of 20-24M over 2 years, which isn’t a terrible contract, but it’s money saved that could be used elsewhere.
And then there is (was) Eric Hosmer.
Hosmer was the guy that I passionately wanted the Red Sox to stay away from in 2018. For a 5-6 year contract worth $20M per year, Hosmer may very easily not be worth the money. Depending on how many years he ends up getting Hosmer would have to be worth 12-15 WAR over the course of his contract, something I don’t think a player as inconsistent as he is can do. The last time Eric Hosmer was worth 2 WAR in back-to-back seasons was… never. The last time Eric Hosmer had an OPS of .800 or higher in back-to-back seasons was… never. Despite FOUR Gold Gloves (an absolutely sham of an award that gets handed out to the deserving player almost never), Hosmer has quite literally never played Gold Glove defense, saving a grand total of ZERO defensive runs in his 4 Gold Glove seasons combined, including -7 defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2017.
He also doesn’t solve the Red Sox power outage from 2017. You could easily make an argument that Hosmer’s numbers from ’17 are inflated by an uncharacteristically high BABIP, as his FB% hit a career low and his Hard% plummeted to the lowest it’s been since his rookie season. Hosmer has also led all MLB first baseman in GB% since he came into the league in 2011. And no, playing in Fenway instead of Kauffman Stadium would not increase his power numbers:
Which brings us to Mitch Moreland and why, in this free agent class, Moreland was a better candidate to play first base for the Red Sox. Over the course of his career, Moreland has been a .252/.317/.439 hitter (.756 OPS). Eric Hosmer has been a .284/.342/.439 hitter (.781 OPS) over the course of his. Hosmer has a OBP higher than Moreland thanks to more (but also worse) contact. Their SLG% are exactly the same (see: worse contact). Mitch Moreland plays ACTUAL Gold Glove defense at 1B, with 17 DRS over the past 2 season compared to Hosmer’s -13 DRS.
Eric Hosmer is the better offensive player, I’m not sitting here trying to convince you that he isn’t. Moreland’s .319 OBP over the last 3 seasons pales in comparison to Hosmer’s .359, and it’s most, if not all, of the reason Hosmer has been worth 8.7 bWAR over that time span and Moreland has been worth just 4.9. But look at those numbers I just laid out and I’m not sure you can convince me that Hosmer is right for the Red Sox. Moreland has been worth a little over 1.6 WAR/season over the last 3 seasons and the Sox locked him up for $6.5M per year. Hosmer has been worth 2.9 WAR/season over the last 3 years and is looking for $20M+. So essentially, Hosmer is looking for 3+ times as much money per year as Moreland required at 1.8 times the production. And to top it all off, with matching career SLG%, he doesn’t solve the Red Sox biggest issue from this past season, their lack of power.
So no, Mitch Moreland isn’t perfect, and he’s hardly the type of player to get excited about. I look around the league and there are probably a dozen or more first baseman I would rather have. But given what the Red Sox had in front of them, they made the right decision by not signing Eric Hosmer and (hopefully) electing to use that money elsewhere. I don’t think that makes them “Pathetic” or “Fkn bums”. I think that makes them financially prudent.
Bonus: Mitch Moreland had a 0.00 ERA last season and Hosmer didn’t even pitch so…
Photot credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne