The Seattle Mariners' Kendrys Morales would be another affordable power option for the Rangers
I've already discussed one alternative option for the Texas Rangers if they don't sign Shin-Soo Choo: trade the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Encarnacion. Then fill in left field with either newly acquired Michael Choice, or move Alex Rios to left and sign Nelson Cruz on a short-term deal to play in right.
This idea was entirely speculation, but it is a much cheaper option than signing Choo by himself. Ken Rosenthal has reported that Choo is expected to get a deal close to the seven-year, $153 million contract Jacoby Ellsbury got from the New York Yankees.
I've spent a while thinking about how the Rangers could address their left field situation. I have another suggestion that represents an even cheaper alternative solution than trading for Encarnacion. Remember this is just a speculative suggestion. Here goes.
Sign Kendrys Morales, move Alex Rios to left field and slide Mitch Moreland into right field
Ok, here's how this option might work.
It sure seems that Morales has rarely even been discussed so far this offseason. He's out there and wide open to any club looking for a solid power option who hits for respectable contact. He's seeking a multi-year deal, and at only 30 he'll likely get it from someone.
To make this plan work, the Rangers would need to sign Morales at a fair price. I have not seen any potential figures reported, so I won't speculate on the terms of such a deal. I do believe it would likely be a three or four-year deal, however.
The Rangers would make him the full-time DH. He'd play first base whenever Prince Fielder needed a rest, which would be rarely or never. Then slide Mitch Moreland into right field, where he has experience playing. Alex Rios would be moved to left field, as he can handle either corner spot with his speed and athleticism.
Here are the advantages to this plan.
a. Morales should be relatively affordable, and would provide a much needed switch-hitting threat. Last year in 602 at bats he hit 23 home runs and 80 RBI, while hitting .277, according to ESPN.
In 2013, he did most of his damage from the left side of the plate; however, he was no slouch on the right side. He hit .282 from the left side in 393 at-bats, and .275 from the right side in 209 at-bats. It's also a safe bet that his power numbers would increase playing regularly in Arlington.
b. Mitch Moreland has shown dramatically improved athletic ability over the last season and a half. Last season in 146 games at first base, his fielding percentage was an impressive .996, per ESPN. He also turned 108 double plays.
This improved defense is no doubt due to his increased speed and athleticism. He shed bad weight over the offseason, and it paid dividends for his team. His quicker step and long stride could translate well to right field. He also has a strong and accurate arm, as evidenced by those 108 double plays turned.
In 45 career games in right, he has 68 putouts on 70 total chances, for a .971 fielding percentage. Not incredible, but definitely not bad. That is a small sample size, and many of those games were played before he made individual improvements last season.
Except for earlier day games, Moreland will not have to contend with the early evening sun in left field. It's better to let a vastly more experienced outfielder in Alex Rios take on that challenge.
c. By moving Moreland to right field, manager Ron Washington has the luxury of keeping as much power in the lineup as he can. Right now, many Ranger fans seem to be set on the idea of either signing Choo to play full-time left field and keeping Rios in right, or playing Michael Choice as the full-time left fielder and using Moreland as the usual DH.
It's true that Moreland struggled to make contact at the plate last year, hitting only .232. But he did enough power-wise to make himself a threat.
d. This plan is very cheap, and could be executed mostly in-house. Morales would be needed, but I really think he can be had for a decent price. He shouldn't even cost one-fourth of what Choo will, and is a year younger. Whereas Choo struggles against left-handed pitching, Morales performed very well against it.
The two main drawbacks to this deal: first, signing Morales would cost the Rangers a compensatory draft pick. Jon Daniels would really have to decide if Morales' abilities as a hitter are worth that pick. Second, it would make the middle of the order slower.
Overall, I'd be more concerned about losing a pick than losing speed. The Rangers have an abundance of speed between Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios and Jurickson Profar. This club needs power, and Morales is one guy who can definitely provide it.
Here is what the 2014 Ranger lineup might look like if this plan were to be executed:
CF Leonys Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
1B Prince Fielder
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Alex Rios
C Geovany Soto
RF Mitch Moreland
2B Jurickson Profar
That's still a pretty solid lineup on all fronts: contact, power and speed.
Again, just another idea I'm throwing out there for you all to consider, as the Ranger front office heads to Orlando for the Winter Meetings this week. What do you think of this plan?