In an 11th-hour deal, the Texas Rangers agreed to terms with erstwhile first baseman and current designated hitter Mitch Moreland, avoiding salary arbitration; the one-year contract is worth $2.65 million. In so doing, the Rangers avoided an arbitration hearing (which had been scheduled for Feb. 19) and answered some lingering questions about their lineup.
The Rangers despise arbitration hearings, having not gone to one with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000, and many other teams feel almost as strongly. First, arbitration puts the club in a bad position. The team must point out the player’s weaknesses to convince the hearing officer to award less money. In Moreland’s case, the Rangers would have probably harped on the fact that Moreland only hit .232 last year. Criticizing a player in front of the entire world is not very conducive to team-building, to say the least. The other factor is that players nearly always win these arbitration hearings; for example, journeyman Alfonso Soriano received $10 million in a 2006 salary arbitration matter. Moreland had asked for just over $3 million for one year.
Moreland has never been a very aggressive hitter. He walks a lot and strikes out a lot, but when he decides to pull the trigger, he has good power. Last season, Moreland had career highs in both homeruns (23) and RBIs (60). He should hit down in the six-hole or seven-hole to provide some protection for the sluggers batting ahead of him. With Prince Fielder taking over first base, Moreland is pretty well set as the DH. There are still whispers that Moreland may platoon with a righty, but thus far, the former Mississippi State standout is the only real DH on the roster. Expect him to play about 140 games at DH and about 15 games at first base, giving Fielder the occasional day off.
Moreland was an important cog on the 2010 and 2011 teams, and should be a significant contributor in 2014 as well.