Mitch Moreland Rumors

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.


Mitch Moreland, Michael Saunders Change Agencies

Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland has changed agencies and is now represented by Bob Garber of RMG Baseball, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports (on Twitter). Additionally, Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders has joined Meister Sports Management, according to a tweet from agent Brandon Meister.

Moreland, 29, is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he batted .246/.297/.347 with a pair of homers in 184 plate appearances. Moreland underwent season-ending ankle surgery in June, adding his name to a long list of Rangers players that sustained a season-ending injury this year. Formerly represented by BBI Sports Group, he’s a career .252/.316/.430 hitter that has fared considerably better against righties (.777 OPS) than righties (.636 OPS) in his career. Moreland earned $2.65MM last offseason in his first bout with arbitration and will be eligible twice more before he can become a free agent.

Saunders, who turned 28 on Wednesday, has seen his name pop up in trade rumors recently, in part due to some comments made by Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon. Former agent Michael McCann expressed displeasure on his client’s behalf, feeling that the comments called into question Saunders’ work ethic and offseason preparation. Though the Mariners have tried to smooth things over, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that he was likely to be shopped at the GM Meetings last week. Saunders has battled injuries but posted a nice .248/.320/.423 while playing in the pitcher-friendly Safeco Field over the past three seasons. He, too, is arbitration eligible twice more before reaching free agency.

Moreland will join the agency of former Astros ace Roy Oswalt, who has since signed on to work alongside Garber at RMG (as Buster Olney reported at the time of Oswalt’s official retirement). RMG also represents C.J. Wilson, J.D. Martinez and Tyler Chatwood, among others. Saunders, meanwhile, will join an agency that represents big leaguers Sergio Romo, Pat Neshek, Ben Revere and Casey McGehee, among others.

Both changes are reflected in MLBTR’s Agency Database, which contains info on more than 2,000 Major League and Minor League players. If you notice any errors or omissions within the database, please let us know via email: mlbtrdatabase@gmail.com.


Mitch Moreland Scheduled For Season-Ending Surgery

After debating his alternatives for a little more than a week, Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle next Monday, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports. The Rangers expect Moreland to be healthy for Opening Day 2015.

The 28-year-old Moreland batted just .246/.297/.347 in 184 plate appearances for Texas this season despite being heavily platooned in an attempt to minimize his long-standing struggles against left-handed pitching.

General manager Jon Daniels shed some light on Moreland’s struggles in talking with Sullivan, noting that the recent ankle injury isn’t the only ailment Moreland has dealt with this season: “He has also had lower back stuff that we really didn’t talk about that he played through,” Daniels said. “In talking to him, this might put an end to the issues he has had to fight through.”

Moreland is earning $2.65MM this season as a first-time arbitration eligible player. Despite his lackluster performance and limited playing time, Moreland will likely be in line for a small raise in arbitration this coming offseason, which could make him a non-tender candidate in the offseason (as Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News noted earlier in the week).

The injury is hardly anything new for the Rangers, who have already lost Prince Fielder, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and likely Jurickson Profar for the 2014 season. Additionally, Derek Holland has yet to throw a pitch in 2014, and Geovany Soto is not yet recovered from knee surgery he underwent in Spring Training. Texas has also lost several bullpen and bench pieces to injury.

Yesterday, the team signed veteran slugger Carlos Pena to a minor league deal in an effort to replenish some first base depth.



AL Notes: Durrett, Rios, Moreland, Jackson, Kubel, Jays

ESPN Dallas writer and reporter Richard Durrett, whose work was often referenced in MLBTR’s pages, passed away suddenly today. In one of his final pieces, Durrett wrote an excellent assessment of Alex Rios and his value to the Rangers as a trade candidate or member of next year’s club. As we commend his work one last time, MLBTR offers its deepest condolences to Durrett’s young family, friends, and colleagues in the press box.

Here is the latest news out of the American League:

  • Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland is “leaning toward” season-ending ankle surgery, GM Jon Daniels tells Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News. Moreland had struggled thus far in 2014, but his absence will still tell for a Texas club that has had more than its fair share of injuries. As Fraley notes, the 28-year-old could be a non-tender candidate.
  • The Mariners are in position to begin full-on negotiations with first-round (sixth overall) selection Alex Jackson, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. As Dutton explains, both sides have strong incentives to get a deal done. Jackson’s spot in the draft comes with a $3,575,900 slot allocation, but at present Seattle can dedicate as much as $3,882,900 to the high schooler before incurring penalties, Dutton notes.
  • Despite their obvious need for outfield help, the Red Sox appear to have little interest in the recently-released Jason Kubel, reports Sean McAdam of Comcast SportsNet New England (via Twitter). Kubel, 32, scuffled to a .224/.313/.295 line in 176 plate appearances in his return to the Twins.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos took on a range of topics in a press appearance today, and MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm has a transcript. Addressing the team’s still-unsigned first-round choices (injured righty Jeff Hoffman and catcher Max Pentecost), Anthopoulos said that he “feel[s] very confident that [deals] will get done.”
  • Turning to the upcoming trade deadline, Anthopoulos said that talks are still in a preliminary stage, with teams “calling to see what everyone’s needs are.” Strongly implying that Toronto expects to be a buyer, as one would expect, Anthopoulos continued: “I think the stage that everyone is at is, where do we have fits, what teams do we line up with and then the next step is, teams are out seeing our affiliates, or are going to see our affiliates.”
  • Toronto is not necessarily just focused on adding a starter, Anthopoulos said. “[W]e’ve talked about every spot,” he said. “I was just on the phone with someone that, if they have a player available [and] we have a good player at that spot but that player’s an upgrade, we’d look to do it.” At this point, said the GM, “we’re just basically canvassing the clubs to see who’s available. In some of the conversations, players we didn’t think were available are, and we’ll see where the dialogue goes.”
  • All that being said, the Blue Jays still seem likely to pursue rotation help. Indeed, the club sent a scout to watch Cubs‘ righties Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in their most recent starts, reports Bob Elliott of the Canadian Baseball Network. On the other side of the coin, scouts from the Cubs and Rays were present to watch last Thursday’s outing for Jays’ minor league lefty Daniel Norris, along with the rest of the Class-A Dunedin squad.

AL Notes: A’s, Moreland, Rangers, Konerko, Draft

The Yankees‘ offense may be struggling, but former catcher Jorge Posada says that he wouldn’t be much help if he suddenly came out of retirement.  “I can’t play that game anymore,” Posada told Mitch Abramson of the Daily News at last night’s Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez fight at Madison Square Garden. “It’s too fast. They’re throwing too hard. I’m happy. I think my decision was great. I couldn’t play that game anymore. It’s a tough sport.”  More from around baseball:

  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wonders if the A’s might look to add more punch at second base.  Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, and Alberto Callaspo haven’t been doing much offensively so far, but a premium second baseman would require a substantial return.  The A’s won’t part with Addison Russell and minor league right-hander Raul Alcantara is hurt.
  • The Rangers have lost their second first baseman to the disabled list with the news Mitch Moreland will undergo left ankle reconstruction and is expected to miss three months. In the wake of Kendrys Morales‘ signing with the Twins, ESPNDallas.com’s Richard Durrett examines the Rangers’ in-house options to replace Moreland.
  • Paul Konerko was caught off-guard when he was traded by the Dodgers on the Fourth of July 16 years ago, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. I was surprised not because I got traded, but because of the timing of the trade,” said Konerko, who was dealt to the Reds for closer Jeff Shaw. “I don’t think it really mattered what they got at that point. It didn’t seem like they were going to win.” The Dodgers, who finished third in 1998, were 12 1/2 games out of first place and eight games behind in the Wild Card race at the time of the deal. The Reds flipped Konerko to the White Sox seven months later for outfielder Mike Cameron and the rest is history for the South Siders.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law breaks down the draft for each American League club (through Round Ten) in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).

Edward Creech contributed to this post.


Rangers Avoid Arbitration With Mitch Moreland

The Rangers have avoided arbitration with first baseman Mitch Moreland by agreeing upon a $2.65MM salary for 2014, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The deal also allows him to earn $25K bonuses upon reaching 470 and 525 plate appearances, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

The 28-year-old, who figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter in the coming season, was unable to repeat his 2012 numbers upon taking over the team's primary first base job last year. Moreland slashed .232/.299/.437 in 518 plate appearances last year, including 23 home runs. The Rangers acquired Prince Fielder over the off-season, and he is expected to see most of the time at first.

Moreland, who is represented by BBI Sports Group, will earn close to the $2.638MM midpoint between his and the teams' respective filing figures. As always, power pays in arbitration, and Moreland's attractive long ball totals no doubt aided his cause. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected a very accurate $2.7MM salary for Moreland, who will go through arbitration twice more before qualifying for free agency in 2017.


AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Astros, Cruz, Moreland

Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury).  While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.

  • The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum.  Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
  • Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen.  "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere."  Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
  • The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything."  Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
  • While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market.  The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
  • Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.  Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades.  Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
  • The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension.  Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today."  We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.

Rangers Notes: Young, Moreland

Here are a few notes from Rangers Fan Fest, which is taking place today in Arlington.

  • The Rangers aren't likely to sign Michael Young, GM Jon Daniels says (via ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett on Twitter). Instead, the Rangers will turn to internal options to find another bench infielder to pair with Adam Rosales.
  • The Rangers are looking for pitching depth, Durrett writes. "I mean guys that can help our big-league club," GM Jon Daniels says. "We would have been looking for that this time of year anyways before Derek (Holland) got hurt but that changes things a little bit."
  • Daniels also notes that he thinks the free-agent market is "coming out of a dead period" with recent signings of Grant Balfour, Eric O'Flaherty and Grady Sizemore.
  • Mitch Moreland will be the Rangers' main designated hitter, Durrett tweets. The team will also occasionally start other players at the position. Moreland has been mentioned this offseason as a potential trade target for teams like the Brewers and Pirates who are in need of a first baseman, but the Rangers have also reportedly told Brewers GM Doug Melvin that they won't deal Moreland. Given that they have him penciled in at a starting position, that makes sense.

AL Notes: A-Rod, Moreland, Twins, Figgins

MLB was ready to pass expanded replay and eliminate home plate collisions at last month's Winter Meetings. However, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the main hurdle is union approval. In an email to FOX Sports, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark wrote the union's executive board discussed both issues "at length" during its December meeting, but "a consensus on both matters was not reached." Clark added "what has been contemplated exceeds what was agreed to" in regards to instant replay and "as it relates to home plate collisions, there are several points of view to explore with the players and we continue to do so." In today's news and notes from the American League:

  • The Yankees will not make a final decision about how to handle the possibility of Alex Rodriguez reporting to Spring Training until speaking with the comissioner's office, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand. One baseball official told Marchand the Yankees could send Rodriguez to their minor league camp and even go as far as instructing coaches not to hit him grounders or throw him batting practice.  
  • The only reason for Rodriguez to attend Spring Training is to give the media even more A-Rod headlines next month, opines Jayson Stark of ESPN. Several industry sources familiar with baseball's Basic Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement tell Stark neither agreement explicitly gives a player suspended for the season the right to attend Spring Training with one official calling the wording "intentionally vague."
  • The Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League have released a statement on their Facebook page saying they will not sign A-Rod and doing so "would be a hurtful precedent." However, the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association are open to the possibility, tweets the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, who first wrote about the team's interest last August. In the article, Shea notes the Pacific Association does not adhere to MLB suspensions and has no mandatory drug testing.
  • Mitch Moreland told reporters, including Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, he still isn't sure whether he will playing for the Rangers or elsewhere in 2014. "They’ve definitely made a lot of moves and have been very active this offseason," Moreland said. "From what I know right now, I’m still here and still a Texas Ranger and happy to be here and looking forward to the season." Earlier today, we learned Texas has been unwilling to discuss Moreland in trade talks. If that remains the case, Moreland says he has been told his role will be changing and he will use Spring Training to prepare himself to play first base, the outfield, and DH. 
  • The Twins are still showing no interest in exploring multi-year pacts with any of their three arbitration eligible players, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a total of $4.8MM for the trio of Trevor Plouffe, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. In a separate tweet, Berardino reports an arbitration hearing will probably not be needed for Swarzak because the salary gap should be pretty narrow. The filing deadline is Tuesday. 
  • After sitting out 2013, Chone Figgins wants to play this season and will work out for teams in Tampa this week, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. After a .298/.395/.393 line with the Angels in 2009, Figgins signed a four-year, $36MM deal with the Mariners and proceeded to struggle in Seattle with a .227/.302/.283 slash over the life of the contract.

Brewers Notes: Aoki, Melvin, Loney, First Base

The trade of Norichika Aoki to the Royals for southpaw Will Smith was "was coaxed primarily by Aoki's agent to assure more playing time," Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes.  Khris Davis' impressive rookie season put him in line for a starting job in 2014, and with Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez locked into the other two starting outfield spots, Aoki was looking at a reduced role with the Brewers next season.

Here's some more Brewers news from Haudricourt's chat with Brewers GM Doug Melvin…

  • Melvin reiterated his stance that the Brewers' lack of major offseason moves is due to the belief that the team will improve simply with the continued development of young players and the returns of suspended or injured stars like Braun or Aramis Ramirez.
  • The Brewers pursued James Loney, who instead re-signed with the Rays for a three-year, $21MM contract.  "We knew if he had the same deal he was probably going to go back to Tampa," Melvin said.  Indeed, Loney said that he chose the Rays' contract over similar offers from not just the Brewers, but also the Pirates and Astros.
  • Melvin cited some interest in Justin Morneau, who signed with the Rockies last month, but the GM sounded as if he wasn't particularly enamored with the free agent options at first base.  "The list wasn't very good. It's one of those years where the position we needed, there were fewer opportunities to get someone," Melvin said.
  • In also noting that the trade market for first baseman was thin, Melvin acknowledged he had at least had discussions with the Rangers and Mariners.  "There just aren't available guys. Texas, at this point, is not willing to talk about [Mitch] Moreland. Seattle is not interested in moving their guys. So, there aren't a lot of choices."
  • The Brewers didn't have much available payroll space this offseason but extra money would've been there if the situation warranted.  "We haven't increased it that much, but if the right player was there I would go to (team owner) Mark (Attanasio) and say it's the right player," Melvin said.  "When it comes to payroll, we're always guarded to make sure that we don't put ourselves in a hole or a bind that we can't get out of two years from now or three years from now. Our payroll will be in a much better position next year in that regard."  The Brewers have only $39.1MM committed for 2015 as Ramirez, Yovani Gallardo and Tom Gorzelanny all come off the books next winter, plus Rickie Weeks seems unlikely to receive the 600 PA he needs this season to trigger his $11.5MM vesting option for 2015.