Mitch Moreland launched 20-plus homers for the third time in four seasons yet also posted one of his lowest averages on balls in play (.266), which crippled his batting average. He was relegated to the middle or bottom third of the lineup most of year, causing his RBI total to drop as well. Persistently high strikeout rates and low walk percentages make him an annual risk with plate discipline. On the plus side, he hits the ball hard and has a career 15.2 HR/FB, which backs up his ability to leave the yard at a more than acceptable rate. Though he enjoyed his career-best batting average against left-handed pitching last year, it's unlikely that he'll see frequent exposure to southpaws. Moreland should provide cheap power and a good number of RBI again in 2017, but this time with a new supporting cast after he signed with Boston in December.
Moreland was removed from the Red Sox's Grapefruit League lineup for Wednesday's game against the Twins while he tends to a case of the flu, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. He's set to fly back to Boston and is expected to remain away from the team for at least a few days. The flu bug has run rampant in the Red Sox clubhouse of late, so the team will quarantine Moreland as it attempts to enter the regular season at optimal health. The Red Sox will wrap up their spring schedule with two exhibitions in Washington against the Nationals on Friday and Saturday, but Moreland won't be joining the team for either contest. The team is simply hoping that with five full days off for rest, Moreland will be ready to go for the Opening Day game Monday against the Pirates. With Hanley Ramirez (shoulder) limited to DH duties and Josh Rutledge (hamstring) set to open the season on the DL, the Red Sox may have to recall Steve Selsky from Triple-A Pawtucket to provide the team with another option at first base if Moreland is unable to take the field for Opening Day.
Moreland is hitting .318 (7-for-22) with a homer and seven RBI in nine spring games. Moreland is expected to be part of a strict platoon at first base, starting against right-handers while Hanley Ramirez steps in against lefties. Ramirez will be the regular designated hitter against right-handers, but against lefties, manager John Farrell intends to use Chris Young as the DH or to give a regular position player an off day from the field. That means Moreland may not see the 500-plus plate appearances he's enjoyed in three of the last four seasons.
Moreland could be used in a platoon at first base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Moreland and Hanley Ramirez, who didn't kill Boston defensively at first as he did in left field the previous season, could form the platoon. The newly acquired Moreland would face right-handed starters and Ramirez could start against lefties. The platoon would allow manager John Farrell to use the now-available designated hitter spot to take advantage of certain matchups or keep players fresh. One can see Chris Young getting into the lineup more often against left-handed starters, or Dustin Pedroia getting a "day off" as the DH. We'll get a clearer picture of Moreland's projected usage in spring training, but be prepared for him to get fewer than 500 at-bats in a Boston uniform.
Moreland agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox on Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports. The deal is contingent on Moreland passing a physical, but it appears that the former Texas Ranger is headed to Boston. Although he's coming off a down season in terms of average, Moreland remained a force at the plate as he hit over 20 home runs for the third time in the last four years. Headed into 2017, Boston will likely move Hanley Ramirez from first base to the DH spot to make room for the sure-handed Moreland, who won a Gold Glove following his 2016 performance.
Moreland is drawing interest from the Indians and Blue Jays, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports. Moreland is one of several potential first-base options for the Indians, who are also considering Mike Napoli and Adam Lind. With Edwin Encarnacion a free agent, the Jays currently have Justin Smoak penciled in as the starter at first base, unless new addition Kendrys Morales gets some time at the position. Moreland posted solid numbers in 2016, hitting 22 homers and driving in 60 runs while sporting a .233/.298/.422 slash line. He also took home his first Gold Glove Award.