New T.R. Sullivan Inbox Column up

Tom Pennington

T.R. Sullivan's new inbox column includes an argument for Mitch Moreland being a regular in 2014

T.R. Sullivan has a new Inbox column up, and there's a lot of questions in there, including Teresa H. from Wichita Falls wanting David Murphy to return next year because he's a fan favorite, and Bob F. from Dallas (who notes that he played high school and college ball in the 60s) complaining that the dugout looks like "a fast food restaurant" because of the sunflower seeds and pistachios the players eat.

What particularly caught my eye, though, was the response to a question about Jose Abreu:

Any word on the Rangers' interest in first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu?
-- Paul S., Arlington, Texas

The Rangers have scouted Abreu, 26, extensively, and he put up some impressive numbers in Cuba. They have definite interest in him, although that doesn't necessarily mean that they will push Mitch Moreland out of the picture. Even with Moreland, the Rangers still need to acquire at least two offensive players this winter at designated hitter and in the outfield.

This sentiment was also present in a piece looking at the Rangers' offseason plans that Sullivan wrote last week:

First base: Anybody notice Moreland was 12th in the American League as far as home runs per at-bat? No, it's hard to notice that when he has 117 strikeouts, the 10th lowest on-base percentage in the league and batted .185 with runners in scoring position.

Moreland's .736 OPS wasn't overwhelming, but there were only nine first basemen in the Majors this year with an OPS greater than .767. The point is as much as the Rangers need more offense out of first base, there aren't many attractive options beyond hoping Moreland can take the next step the Rangers thought he would make this season.

Here's the problem...Sullivan suggests that the Rangers need an outfielder and a DH, and already have Moreland, so they might as well keep Moreland as the first baseman and hope he takes the next step, because otherwise, they have to go fill three holes in the lineup (not even counting catcher).

But that ignores the fact that, if Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, and Ian Kinsler are all here next season, Kinsler is likely playing 1B or the outfield, which takes away one of the holes in the lineup.  And if one of those guys gets dealt, they are likely being dealt for a 1B or COF.

It also ignores the fact that Craig Gentry had another solid season in a part-time role in 2014, and if the Rangers were to have to pick between filling a hole internally with either Gentry or Moreland, it seems like Gentry would more likely get the nod at this point.

The Rangers have put a good deal of faith in Moreland since trading away Justin Smoak in 2010, and Moreland had a solid 47 game run in 2010 that made it look like he could be the team's first baseman going forward.  But since the start of the 2011 season, Moreland has put up a .253/.312/.437 line in 1387 plate appearances over 395 games.  Even if you wanted to make him a platoon player, his line against RHPs as a major leaguer is just .258/.325/.463, which isn't the level of production you want from a platoon 1B/DH/COF.

The lack of offense means that he's hovered around replacement level during that time, putting up an aggregate bWAR of 0.9 and an aggregate fWAR of 1.5 over the past three seasons.  And Moreland is 28 years old, so its not like there's a lot of development that you're going to expect to get out of him.

Look, maybe Sullivan is right, and the Rangers are going to have to go with Moreland as an everyday 1B next year because there are other holes to fill and they don't want to commit to, say, a Gentry/Engel Beltre platoon in the outfield (or even a Gentry/Moreland platoon).  At this point, though, it seems more likely the Rangers are going to have a new 1B next season, and if Moreland is here, it will be in a bench role.

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