The Padres are planning to decline their $3MM club option on Mitch Moreland, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). The veteran first baseman will instead receive a $500K buyout and hit free agency. The Padres have confirmed the move.
San Diego gave up a pair of well-regarded prospects, outfielder Jeisson Rosario and infielder Hudson Potts, to acquire Moreland from the Red Sox before the August 31 trade deadline. Both Rosario and Potts would’ve had to be added to the 40-man roster or else be exposed to the Rule 5 draft this offseason. Freeing up roster space to protect each player figures to be easier for Boston than it would’ve been for the Padres, who have quite a few top prospects who’ll need roster space in the coming months. Nevertheless, losing Rosario and Potts looks like a hefty price to pay for one month of Moreland’s services.
Unfortunately, Moreland underwhelmed after the trade. While he got off to a scorching start in Boston, the 35-year-old put up subpar numbers in San Diego. A down 73 plate appearances surely hasn’t completely soured the Padres’ front office on Moreland’s ability, though. Overall, the left-handed hitter put up a fantastic .265/.342/.551 line between the two clubs.
As Chris Cotillo of MassLive points out (on Twitter), the uncertainty regarding the status of the designated hitter likely played a part in today’s decision. Eric Hosmer would likely have gotten the lion’s share of time at first base even if he had continued to perform at the unspectacular levels he’d managed between 2018-19. The 31-year-old Hosmer looked reinvigorated at the plate in 2020, cementing himself as an everyday player.
With the designated hitter available to NL teams in 2020, Hosmer and Moreland each had opportunity for playing time last season. Like all the other rule changes necessitated by the pandemic-impacted season, the universal DH was only approved for last season. While there’s long been an expectation the universal DH could become permanent under the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement, there’s no guarantee it’ll be in place for 2021.
Moreland will now join a first base market that doesn’t have many clear everyday options. He’ll probably attract a fair bit of interest, particularly if the NL does adopt the DH in the coming months. It’s a bit of a red flag the Padres resorted to declining his option, though. Presumably, the front office looked for a potential trade partner over the past five days and didn’t find a team willing to give up assets to bring Moreland aboard at a low price.