Released: Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa, Ramon Cabrera

Here are the day’s minor moves …


Latest On Jon Lester And Cole Hamels

Earlier today we heard that the Giants have shown interest in Jon Lester, and that interest may now increase with Pablo Sandoval reportedly set to join the Red Sox. San Francisco would make another entrant in a Lester race that has begun to take clearer shape over the past week or so. And, of course, the connection to the Phillies‘ trade market for Cole Hamels cannot be ignored, with several reports suggesting that the two southpaws’ fates are intertwined.

Here are today’s Lester and Hamels rumors…

  • Two NL GMs told Peter Gammons over the weekend that Lester is nearing a deal with the Red Sox. However, Gammons writes that the info doesn’t appear to be accurate at this time, as Lester is set to meet with the Cardinals sometime next week. According to Gammons, Lester might wish to have a deal in place in advance of the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 7 in San Diego. WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford echoes that there’s nothing close between the Red Sox and Lester at this time (Twitter link).
  • Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox and Lester are still “very much engaged” and it does appear possible for the Sox to add Lester, Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez (who agreed to a four-year, $88MM pact with Boston earlier today).
  • The Red Sox and Cubs are interested in Hamels, and both could “jump” at the chance to acquire him if they miss on Lester, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Boston has had the “most serious talks” with Philadelphia, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), with Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeting that the Phils are confident in striking a deal if Lester does not return to his former club.
  • The Dodgers are also in on Hamels, according to a tweet from Nightengale. Los Angeles represents a potentially powerful new entrant to that market, of course, and could shake up the pursuit if it decides to commit significant resources to adding a third stellar lefty to its rotation.

Red Sox To Sign Pablo Sandoval

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval will sign with the Red Sox, agent Gustavo Vasquez has confirmed to multiple reporters. Sandoval’s prior club, the Giants, have released a statement wishing him luck in Boston.

Pablo  Sandoval

While financial terms remain to be determined, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman has reported (Twitter link) that the deal is for five years and somewhere in the range of $100MM. It appears that Sandoval will be introduced by his new team tomorrow.

Sandoval’s addition immediately addresses Boston’s need for a third baseman in the wake of Will Middlebrooks‘ disappointing 2014 season, and the switch-hitting Sandoval also adds some balance to a predominantly right-handed hitting Red Sox batting order.  While Sandoval never had much trouble hitting at AT&T Park (a career .853 OPS in San Francisco), it stands to reason that the move to hitter-friendly Fenway Park will only help his production.

With Sandoval in the fold and Hanley Ramirez reportedly also close to finalizing a deal, the Red Sox may have landed the two biggest infield bats on the free agency market.  It remains to be seen how the Red Sox will deploy their talent given Xander Bogaerts‘ presence at shortstop, though Sandoval is the obvious choice at third base given that he has posted above-average UZR/150 numbers in three of the last four seasons.

The Red Sox were one of three reported finalists for Sandoval along with the Giants and Padres.  (The Blue Jays and White Sox also showed some interest in Sandoval earlier this winter.)  This interest didn’t result in Sandoval finding his desired six guaranteed years, though if the contract does pay him a $20MM average annual value, it will be the second-highest AAV ever given to a third baseman, topped only by Alex Rodriguez‘s deal with the Yankees. San Francisco assistant GM Bobby Evans tells Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) that Sandoval informed him he was looking for a “new challenge,” and he apparently found that in Boston.

Sandoval, 28, had spent his entire seven-year Major League career with the Giants, becoming a fan favorite due to his “Kung Fu Panda” persona and his clutch bat.  Sandoval owns a .344/.389/.545 slash line in 167 postseason plate appearances, most notably being named MVP of the 2012 World Series.  Losing Sandoval is a big blow to the Giants, who may be looking to replace his production by signing Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.  Since Tomas could be deployed as a third baseman, he might end up as a direct replacement for Sandoval should he indeed wind up a Giant.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Giants are interested in Tomas as a left fielder and would likely pursue Chase Headley to fill their third base vacancy if Sandoval went elsewhere.

The Giants offered Sandoval a five-year, $95MM contract and showed some willingness to go to $100MM if necessary, tweets Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com hears the same and adds that there was an understanding that the $95MM wasn’t necessarily a final offer.

San Francisco will now receive a bonus pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as compensation for Sandoval signing elsewhere,  since he rejected the team’s one-year qualifying offer.  Boston’s first round pick (7th overall) is protected, so the Sox will instead give up their second rounder as a result of the signing.

Oscar Prieto Rojas reported direct confirmation of the signing (Twitter links). CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported today that a deal was complete (Twitter link). Jake Wesley tweeted yesterday that Sandoval and the Sox had reached agreement.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Rangers Sign Ed Lucas To Minor League Deal

The Rangers announced that they’ve signed infielder Ed Lucas to a minor league deal and invited him to big league Spring Training.

Texas claimed Lucas from the Marlins on waivers back in October but outrighted him at month’s end to clear a 40-man roster spot. The veteran utility man has played in 163 games for the Marlins over the past two seasons, batting .255/.302/.323 while appearing at all four infield positions as well as each outfield corner. Lucas, who turns 33 next May, didn’t reach the big until age 31 and has experience in parts of 11 minor league seasons. In 1482 plate appearances at Triple-A, he’s posted a .265/.338/.398 slash line.


Dodgers Acquire Juan Nicasio, Designate Ryan Jackson

The Dodgers announced that they have acquired right-hander Juan Nicasio from the Rockies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. To make room for Nicasio, who was designated for assignment last week, the Dodgers have designated infielder Ryan Jackson for assignment.

The 28-year-old Nicasio has struggled as an on-and-off member of the Rockies’ rotation for the past four seasons, but he did post a handful of nice innings as a reliever for Colorado last year (3.48 ERA in 20 2/3 frames). Nicasio has averaged about 93 mph on his heater throughout his career, and a look at his velocity chart (courtesy of Fangraphs) from 2014 shows that his fastball jumped to nearly 95 mph when pitching out of the ‘pen late in the season.

Overall, Nicasio has a career ERA of 5.03 with 6.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 44.6 percent ground-ball rate in 381 innings. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected the arb-eligible righty to earn $2.4MM next season, which was likely a large factor in the Rockies removing him from the 40-man roster.

The 26-year-old Jackson has just two hits in 25 career plate appearances in the Majors. He was claimed off waivers from the Padres, and many speculated that former San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, now working in the Dodgers’ front office, had a hand in that decision. A shortstop by trade, Jackson is a career .274/.344/.369 hitter at the Triple-A level. He missed most of the 2014 season recovering from surgery on his right wrist.


Rangers Release Jim Adduci To Pursue Opportunity In Asia

NOV 24: The Rangers announced that Adduci has been released and will indeed pursue an opportunity with an Asian club.

NOV. 20, 10:20pm: Adduci is likely to be sold to a Korean or Japanese club, a Major League source tells MLBTR.

10:15pm: The Rangers announced that they have designated first baseman/outfielder Jim Adduci for assignment.

The 29-year-old Adduci has picked up 148 plate appearances with Texas over the past two seasons, batting a combined .189/.259/.242. His Triple-A batting line — .281/.352/.397 in 1157 plate appearances — is a significant improvement over those marks. Originally a 42nd-round draft pick of the Marlins, Adduci has also spent time in that organization as well as with the Cubs from 2007-12.


Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Monday

Late last week, the Padres and Braves were rumored to be emerging as the favorites for Yasmany Tomas, and on Sunday it was reported that he’s received offers from the Braves, Giants and Padres with the Mariners, Phillies and Diamondbacks still lurking on the periphery of his market. We’ll keep track of Monday’s Tomas reports in this post…

  • Though Peter Gammons tweeted over the weekend that the Braves have made an offer, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was told that no offer has been extended (Twitter link). This may be a case of semantics, as Atlanta could have made its comfort level known without technically extending a formal offer.
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Braves are traveling to the Dominican Republic to meet with Tomas again today. He adds that the Padres “just made a big push” for Tomas as well, and feels the Giants‘ interest will increase with Pablo Sandoval likely heading to Boston today. (Sandoval’s agents this morning said that no decision has been made, but one will be reached today. Most believe Boston to be the destination.)

Red Sox Agree To Terms With Hanley Ramirez

The Red Sox have reached an agreement with Hanley Ramirez, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets.  FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets that it’s a four-year, $88MM contract with a $22MM vesting option for a fifth season.  Christopher Meola, who initially broke details of the Giancarlo Stanton signing, first reported yesterday morning that Ramirez would sign in Boston (Twitter link).   Ramirez is represented by Adam Katz of the Wasserman Media Group.

Hanley Ramirez

Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers for the Dodgers last season and owns a .300/.373/.500 slash line for his career, was cited by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes as the top position player available in free agency, though it was “unclear” as to how Ramirez’s market would develop.  While Ramirez’s impact bat was clearly a huge asset in an offense-thin free agent market, he has a notable injury history and is a below-average defensive shortstop, posting negative Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 totals in seven of his nine full-time seasons.  In order to help his free agent case, Ramirez said he was open to switching positions, though his signing with the Sox opens up a number of possibilities on that front.

As of now, Ramirez projects as the everyday Red Sox third baseman, sharing the left side of the infield with shortstop Xander Bogaerts.  Since the Sox are reportedly close to a deal with Pablo Sandoval, however, Ramirez could be moved into a left field role, joining Boston’s very crowded outfield mix of Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Shane Victorino, Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts and Daniel Nava.  Cespedes’ name has been mentioned in trade rumors, so he seems like the most probable candidate to be playing elsewhere in 2015, but the Sox seem very likely to move multiple outfielders this winter.

The other alternative for Boston would be to install Ramirez at shortstop, Sandoval at 3B and then look to deal Bogaerts, whose star-caliber ceiling would make him a major chip in any trade.  Even if Bogaerts was dealt, the Red Sox wouldn’t have to deal with Ramirez’s shortstop glove for too long — prospect Deven Marrero could eventually take over, shifting Ramirez or Sandoval to DH (the other would play third) once David Ortiz retires.  Ortiz’s contract is only guaranteed for the 2015 season, though the 39-year-old slugger has a pair of team/vesting options for 2016 and 2017.

However things break down, it’s clear that the Red Sox are looking to amass as many top bats as possible in the increasingly pitching-dominated league.  The Sox have been hesitant about signing free agents to long contracts given how several of their recent major signings (i.e. Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez) provided limited returns.  On paper, Ramirez doesn’t fit the model of the safe signing that Boston would prefer given his age (he’ll be 31 on Opening Day), injury history and defensive issues, though given how little payroll space the Sox have tied up in future commitments, the club had plenty of flexibility.

Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars.  The qualifying offer and the questions about Ramirez’s defense could have played a role, or it could be that Ramirez was simply willing to take less money to play for the organization that originally signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000.  Ramirez developed into one of the game’s top prospects while in the Sox farm system and he played his first two Major League games with the team in 2005.  He was dealt that November to the Marlins as part of the trade package that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston.

The Dodgers will earn a compensation pick between the first and second rounds of the 2015 draft as a result of the signing, as Ramirez turned down the team’s qualifying offer.  Boston’s 2015 first-round pick is protected, so the Sox will surrender their second-rounder to sign Ramirez (or their third-rounder, should Sandoval also be signed).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Josh Willingham Announces Retirement

Josh Willingham will officially retire after an 11-year Major League career, the outfielder told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Willingham’s decision comes despite receiving what he termed a “substantial” offer from a contending club this offseason, Crasnick writes. Willingham explained his decision process:

“I felt like it wouldn’t be fair to myself, and more importantly to the team that was paying me a lot of money to perform at a high level, if there was a chance my dedication would waver — particularly as the season got longer. I’m honored to have played for as many years as I have, and I feel even luckier to walk away on my own terms instead of having the decision made for me.”

The 35-year-old Willingham (36 in February) was a late bloomer who didn’t become an MLB regular until his age-27 season with the Marlins. However, once he established himself as a presence in their lineup, he quickly became known for his excellent plate discipline and plus right-handed power. He found himself traded to the Nationals and then to the A’s before reaching free agency for the first time, where he ultimately signed a three-year, $21MM contract with the Twins.

Willingham’s best season came in his first year with the Twins, as he batted .260/.366/.524 with a career-high 35 home runs — earning him a Silver Slugger and making him just the third player in Twins franchise history to hit 35 or more homers in a season (along with Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew and former AL Rookie of the Year Bob Allison). In total, Willingham’s career comes to a close with a .253/.358/.465 batting line, 195 homers and 632 RBIs in 1147 games between the Marlins, Nationals, A’s, Twins and Royals. The “Hammer” earned more than $35MM in his playing career, according to Baseball-Reference.com. MLBTR wishes Willingham and his family luck and happiness in his post-playing days and congratulates him on a very nice career.


Red Sox Finalizing Deal With Hanley Ramirez

MONDAY: Multiple sources tell ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that the five-year, $90MM figure which has been reported is inaccurate (Twitter link).

SUNDAY: Hanley Ramirez will go to Boston on Monday to finalize a deal with the Red Sox in the five-year, $90MM range, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter links). Reports emerged this afternoon indicating that the Red Sox were in hot pursuit of Ramirez.

As Rosenthal wrote earlier today, the Red Sox’ endgame with Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval is unclear. It’s possible they want Ramirez to play shortstop, but they already have Xander Bogaerts, who has upside and is a far superior defender. If they want Ramirez to play third, it’s unclear what will come of their outstanding offer to Sandoval (which reportedly was for a similar total of five years and $95MM). They could also try Ramirez at outfield, although he has limited experience there, and the Red Sox have plenty of outfielders. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe tweets that the Red Sox are still trying to sign both players.

As the previous paragraph suggests, however, there are big questions about Ramirez’s defense, particularly at shortstop. He has also had trouble staying healthy in the past several seasons. Still, Ramirez, who hit .283/.369/.448 for the Dodgers last season and is .300/.373/.500 for his career, clearly has an impact bat, and that’s a huge asset, particularly in an offense-thin free agent market. Earlier this month, MLBTR’s Zach Links projected Ramirez would get a six-year, $132MM deal, so the reported total of his pact with Boston lags behind in both years and dollars. It could be possible Ramirez is willing to take less money to play for the Red Sox, the organization that signed and developed him before trading him to the Marlins in 2005.

Ramirez rejected the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, so L.A. will add a pick at the end of the first round of next year’s draft if the Red Sox do complete the signing. The Red Sox’ top pick (No. 7 overall) is protected, so they would lose their second-round pick as a result of signing Ramirez.


Mariners, Kyle Seager Agree To Seven-Year, $100MM Extension

The Mariners and third baseman Kyle Seager are on the verge of completing a seven-year, $100MM extension, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. The contract contains an option for an eighth season which could be worth as much as $20MM, depending on performance escalators, Passan adds. Seager’s deal is pending a physical. He is represented by Jet Sports Management’s Andrew Lowenthal.

Kyle Seager

Seager’s payday is well-deserved, as the 27-year-old has emerged as one of baseball’s best third basemen over the past three seasons. Seager has established himself as a durable source of power in an increasingly pitcher-friendly environment, and he’s a solid defender at third base as well. This past season, he batted .268/.334/.454 with a career-high 25 homers and excellent defensive marks (+10 DRS, +9.2 UZR/150) at third. His offense has increased incrementally with each full season in the Majors, and he’s never been placed on the disabled list.

Originally selected in the third round of the 2009 draft out of UNC, Seager has spent his entire career with the Mariners organization and now looks poised to spend the majority of his days as a Major Leaguer calling Safeco Field his home. The new contract will run through Seager’s age-33 season, with the option year covering his age-34 campaign. Seager had been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $5MM this offseason as a first-time arbitration eligible player.

If we take a guess at his second- and third-time arbitration figures — and this is a highly rudimentary estimate — he may have earned something in the range of $27-30MM over his arbitration seasons. That means the four free agent seasons purchased in this contract are valued somewhere between $17.5MM and $18.25MM. Seager becomes just the fourth player in his service class to secure a $100MM payday. As Passan tweets, only Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Freddie Freeman had reached that feat prior to this deal.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently looked at each team’s future payroll obligations, where the Mariners were among the leaders in future commitment due to their contracts with Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano. While this will further boost their long-term commitments and potentially limit their ability to add a large contract via trade or free agency, team president Kevin Mather recently said payroll will continue to increase following the $107MM spent in 2014. And, the contracts don’t overlap entirely; Hernandez is only controlled through 2019, which will be just the second free agent season on Seager’s deal. The team could potentially backload the contract, to some extent, to create sustained financial flexibility until Hernandez’s deal is off the books.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Giants Have Shown Interest In Jon Lester

It appears likely — though not yet 100 percent certain — that Giants mainstay Pablo Sandoval is on his way to the Red Sox, and the Giants may look to go a different route recouping the lost value. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke to one person with knowledge of the team’s thinking who believed the loss of Sandoval could put San Francisco in play for Jon Lester, and Rosenthal then confirmed with a source that the Giants have indeed shown interest in Lester (Twitter links).

Earlier this morning, reports indicated that Sandoval had agreed to a five-year pact with the Red Sox, but his agents have since publicly stated that no agreement is in place with Boston or any other club at this point. Sandoval will make his decision today, his agent told WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, so we’ll have some closure in the near future.

If the union with Boston does indeed to come to fruition, Lester makes for a logical, albeit more expensive target for Giants GM Brian Sabean (Boston has reportedly already offered Lester $110-120MM over six years). The Giants have little rotation certainty, despite coming off a 2014 World Series victory. Madison Bumgarner is an unquestioned ace, but Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents. Matt Cain will be returning from elbow surgery. Tim Hudson will be 40 next July, and Tim Lincecum has proven to be unreliable at this stage of his career. Lester could likely be penciled in for 200+ innings and provide some much-needed stability.

Of course, such a pursuit does leave the Giants thin at third base and on the lookout for offense. One other alternative, Rosenthal tweets, would be to pursue Chase Headley. He characterizes a Headley pursuit as “likely” for San Francisco, should Sandoval depart. The switch-hitting Headley would become the prize of the free agent market at third base, and the Giants would no doubt have competition for his services. The Yankees are said to very much want Headley back, but any club that showed interest in Sandoval could logically have some interest in Headley as well. That would include the Blue Jays and White Sox, although to this point, those matches are speculative on my behalf, as there’s yet to be a firm connection to Headley for either club.


Orioles Interested In Melky Cabrera As “Fallback Option”

If the Orioles can’t re-sign Nick Markakis, the team’s “fallback option” is to pursue free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Markakis and the O’s looked like they were headed towards a reunion earlier this winter when the two sides were seemingly close to a four-year contract, though there hasn’t since been much progress.

Cabrera posted a .301/.351/.458 slash line and a 125 wRC+ in 621 PA last season in comparison to Markakis’ .276/.342/.386 line and 106 wRC+ over 710 PA, though Cabrera’s defensive deficiencies and fewer plate appearances gave him only a slightly higher fWAR (2.6 to 2.5) than Markakis.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted Cabrera for a five-year, $66.25MM deal and Markakis for a four-year, $48MM deal in his Free Agent Profiles of both outfielders, so signing Cabrera would likely be a more expensive proposition for the Orioles and he’d cost them a draft pick due to the qualifying offer.  If Cabrera’s market is depressed by the QO, however, it’s possible the Orioles could try to sign him for a relative bargain, as they did last winter with Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz.

The White Sox and Mariners have also shown interest in Cabrera this offseason, with the Royals more loosely linked to the outfielder.  The door also hasn’t fully closed on Cabrera re-signing with the Blue Jays, depending on how his market plays out.


Latest On Hyeon-jong Yang

MONDAY, 7:15am: The Rangers haven’t been told they’re the high bidders for Yang, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports.

SUNDAY,10:54pm: The Rangers, not the Twins, won the bidding for Yang, FOX Sports’ C.J. Nitkowski tweets. The fee was about $1.5MM, and Kia could opt to keep Yang. A previous report from Korea had indicated that the Rangers had posted the top bid.

9:10pm: Berardino now tweets that the Kia Tigers haven’t officially decided whether to accept the top bid for Yang, and MLB doesn’t notify the top bidder until the bid is accepted.

12:29pm: Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News hears from an informed baseball source that the Twins have in fact won the bidding.  The value of the Twins’ bid has not been announced and sources have thrown out estimates ranging from $700K to ~$1.5MM.

Both the Kia Tigers and Yang are disappointed with the size of the bid, but the pitcher is pushing the Tigers to accept it so that he can pursue his dream of pitching in the majors.  The team has previously said that it would accept a bid for Yang as long as it was of “a reasonable amount,” but never specified the monetary figure.  The KBO has said that it will inform MLB of the Tigers’ decision by 4pm CT on Friday, November 28th.

10:51am: The Twins are insisting that they haven’t been told they’ve won the bidding for Yang, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter).

SATURDAY, 10:18am: The Twins have won the bidding for Korean lefty Hyeon-jong Yang and are nearing agreement on a deal, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. The Kia Tigers posted Yang earlier this week. The Twins have a 30-day negotiating window with Yang.

Yang, who will be 27 in March, posted a 4.25 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 165 innings in Korea in 2014. Those numbers don’t sound that impressive at first, but each team scores an average of 5.63 runs per game in the offense-heavy KBO, far higher than in the Majors, and Yang’s season earned him the KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young award. Yang is viewed as a mid-rotation starter with No. 2 starter upside, the New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand reports. Yang has a smooth delivery and throws 92-95 MPH.

Feinsand had named the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Giants and Astros as teams that could have interest in Yang. The Red Sox also reportedly had interest. The Padres recently won the bidding for another KBO pitcher, Kwang-hyun Kim, for $2MM, although the top bid for Yang was expected to cost more.

The Twins were expected to pursue starting pitching this offseason, and Yang should give them an option to accompany Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco. Twins starters posted a league-worst 5.06 ERA in 2014.


Non-Tender Candidate: Mitch Moreland

Most Rangers players struggled or were injured in Texas’ disastrous 2014 season, and first baseman Mitch Moreland was no exception. The lefty hit .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances through early June, then had ankle surgery and missed the rest of the year. Now, he’s heading into his second season of arbitration eligibility with a projected $2.8MM salary on the horizon.

USATSI_7950726_154513410_lowresMoreland is now 29 and is on the fringes, at best, as a starting first baseman. Since a partial season as a rookie in 2010, he hasn’t posted an OPS+ above 106 or an OBP above .321, and as a slightly above average defensive first baseman or below average corner outfielder, he doesn’t provide much value with the glove. Even before his injury, he might have been an acceptable choice as a starter only for a team like Texas that had plenty of stars elsewhere in its lineup.

One of those stars is Prince Fielder, who should return from his own injury to take over first base in Texas next year. There’s also limited room for Moreland in the outfield — Shin-Soo Choo will be in right, Jake Smolinski hit well down the stretch last season and could get playing time in left, and Moreland has played only sparingly in the outfield since 2011 anyway. That leaves DH, where the Rangers can be flexible in finding an alternative to Moreland. They’re likely to pursue a DH upgrade this offseason, possibly on the trade market. Another possibility for the Rangers might be to acquire Justin Upton and bump Smolinski to DH.

Moreland posted a wRC+ of 76 last season; every AL team but two (the Indians and Mariners) got better production from their designated hitters. Of course, Moreland’s ankle might partially explain his struggles, and some rebound is likely. Steamer projects Moreland will post a wRC+ of 99 in 2015, which would be more palatable, but still isn’t a figure to which a team should aspire at DH, even at a relatively low price.

If the Rangers don’t acquire outfield or DH help this offseason, however, or if they don’t acquire a left-handed hitter for one of those positions, perhaps they could consider re-signing Moreland at a reduced rate, whether or not they non-tender him first. Smolinski’s breakout in a month’s worth of games in his MLB debut was unsustainable, and entrusting him with an entire starting job, whether that’s DH or left field, without a viable backup plan seems too ambitious. 24-year-old Ryan Rua offers a potentially decent alternative, but like Smolinski, he’s right-handed. Then there’s Michael Choice, who’s also a righty and had a disastrous rookie season.

Giving a fair amount of playing time to some combination of Smolinski, Rua and Choice seems like a good idea for the Rangers, but having reinforcements at DH and in the outfield seems like a good idea as well. Moreland had a poor season in 2014, but he’s experienced and left-handed, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return to the Rangers in 2015 one way or another. A tender is therefore a possibility.

The Rangers’ decision needs to be made in early December, however, and given Moreland’s struggles last season, the Rangers might feel it’s unnecessary to commit nearly $3MM without first exploring other possibilities. A trade before that seems unlikely, since Moreland isn’t an obvious upgrade for many teams at first or DH. Perhaps if he becomes a free agent, a team like the Yankees might be a fit — Moreland could pick up at bats against righties while occasionally playing first base, DH and right field. The Rangers could also wait until later in the offseason to decide what to do with Moreland, to ensure that Fielder is fully ready and to see if an injury in another organization might create a better market.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.