Who Is On First?

Back in May, I wrote an article about some of the Rangers’ problems and how Moreland wasn’t one of them. As of May 15, Mitch was hitting .290/.344/.565 and well on his way to being a solid regular (2-win value) for your favorite team. Since then, Moreland has hit .217/.284/.382 in 66 games. I warned against getting swept up in the next “Great White Hope” on numerous podcasts, SDI Lives, but here we are in August wondering what the future is at first base like every other year.  
While the Mark Teixeira trade has paid off immensely for Texas, it did leave a void at first base that has yet to be filled by the likes of Chris Davis, Justin Smoak and Moreland. Before being traded in 2007, Teixeira accumulated 2.6 rWAR in 78 games, and 21.5 in four plus years with the club. In the five years since then, Rangers’ 1B slash line look like this:

2008: .257/.321/.453/26 HR/89 OPS+
2009: .226/.272/.411/28 HR/77 OPS+ 
2010: .214/.310/.345/16 HR/74 OPS +
2011: .271/.331/.422/18 HR/89 OPS+
2012: .251/.301/.399/20 HR/80 OPS+
2013: .234/.298/.421/19 HR/94 OPS+

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” –Einstein

Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see that the last six years have yet to produce an average first baseman for the Rangers.

So what are the options for the Rangers?

Internal: If Jon Daniels and Co. decide to keep Profar this offseason, then a possibility is moving Kinsler to 1B for 2014. The problem? While Kinsler is a first-tier second baseman, he would be a second-tier first baseman due to lack of power. Ian’s .747 OPS this season ranks sixth among AL qualified second basemen, but would rank 12th out of 15 first basemen. Despite the decline in stolen bases this season (8 after 21 in ’12), his speed and glove would help his value at the new position, but only moderately. Would he be willing to move? He said so back in November, but sang a different tune a month later. Why the change of heart? Well he happens to share the same agent (Jay Franklin) as Moreland. There is also the possibility of moving Kinsler to left field which leads to the next option…

Likelihood of happening: 40%

External: The hot name out there for first base is Cuban defector Jose Abreu. If you haven’t heard his name before, go read Jonah Keri’s article detailing the power-hitting machine. The other names on the 2014 free agent market include Mike Napoli, Kevin Youkilis, Kendrys Morales and Mike Morse. The problem? Rangers will need to add a left fielder, catcher and maybe another starting pitcher in the offseason. Daniels doesn’t want to bust the budget (Abreu could demand 6/80) which leads us to option #3…

Likelihood of happening: 10%

Economical: The Rangers know what they have in Moreland: a second-tier first baseman that provides a decent glove and flashes power for a cheap price (heading into first year of arbitration with an estimated cost of $1.7M). For a look at what Mitch could be down the road, take a look at Dan Allsup’s Lazy Comp piece from earlier this year. In the last two seasons, Moreland has missed 46 games due to hamstring issues and his .768 OPS ranks ninth among qualified AL first basemen. In May, Fangraphs ranked MLB first baseman by tier (not scouting tier like I referenced earlier) and ranked Mitch in the last group. The players he is compared to all have many warts in their game much like he does. The good news? He should eclipse his career high 0.9 rWAR (2010) any day now, but he is off his early season 2+ WAR pace. Also, that 2010 season he only played 47 games and was almost used exclusively against right-handed pitchers (150 PA vs. 23 against LHP). If the Rangers decide to stick with Moreland, it’s not because they think he will become what he isn’t, but because it makes “cents”.

Likelihood of happening: 50%

What is your favorite option?

Eddie Middlebrook is the co-host of “Chin Music” and VP of Media for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Eddie.Middlebrook@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @emiddlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook
Eddie Middlebrook is Senior Writer for @ballparkbanter9 and @shutdowninning. Formerly with @wfaasports and @FoxSportsSW. @IBWAA member. Eddie can be found on Twitter @emiddlebrook.

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