Mitch Moreland is cheap production for the Rangers.
I am a firm believer that the Texas Rangers' 2014 offense is set for Opening Day. That means the club should turn away from making any further significant signings to upgrade the offense.
Instead, the Rangers should be very pleased with the lineup they will field next season. There is a nice mix of high-paid star talent and value guys who outplay their contracts.
One of those high-value guys for the Rangers is Mitch Moreland, who figures to be Texas' designated hitter. But Moreland is especially valuable to the Rangers.
For one, he is a dirt-cheap 20 and 60 hitter, who represents a legitimate power threat in the lineup. Secondly, he is an above-average defensive first baseman. His presence on the team provides manager Ron Washington with some options to fill the DH spot. If Wash wants to field a particularly strong defensive infield, he can pencil in Moreland at first while Prince Fielder is the DH.
Meanwhile, I've heard many Rangers fans say that they'd like Jon Daniels to pursue Kendrys Morales and make him the full-time DH in the Texas lineup. If Morales were signed, it's very likely that Moreland would be put on the trade block.
Texas should keep Moreland. Above all, his overall abilities help to balance the payroll.
Let's do a quick comparison of Moreland and Morales, and what each player brings to the club.
He's almost two full years younger than Morales. The 28-year-old's biggest plus to the team is his affordability—his extremely economic power and production. Granted, last year he really struggled at the plate average-wise. He posted career lows in both batting average at .232 and OBP at .299. That is an alarming number.
But those were career lows that one would assume can really only improve. Especially with the patience and on-base skills of Shin-Soo Choo and Fielder, who will work to wear out the opposing pitcher by the middle innings. As a result, Moreland will usually be hitting against a pitcher who is slightly more worn down than he was facing the Rangers last season.
Again, the batting average and OBP can't get any worse. Still, though, he hit 23 homers and 60 RBI in 2013, which was a bargain for just over $500,000 last season.
After the Rangers spent a combined $268 million on Fielder and Choo, it can easily be argued that Moreland's value to the team has increased because he is so cheap.
Defensively, Moreland is superior to Morales. He is a better athlete and has better range. He showed that on several occasions last season. He complements Fielder's liabilities on defense beautifully. Still, I expect Moreland will DH around 90 percent of the time.
He's arbitration-eligible in 2014, and he should definitely make less than Morales per year. Unless he makes $10 million in arbitration—he shouldn't get even close to that—he's an overall better value, all things considered, than Morales.
Yes, Morales is a better contact hitter than Moreland. He's also a switch-hitter. But their power ability is close to even. Signing the 30-year-old would be expensive in both cash and by surrendering a first-round pick—to the division rival Seattle Mariners. I don't think that's a wise option, considering Seattle seems like it's poised to make at least one more major move this offseason.
Last season, he hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBI with the Mariners. It's true that his batting average was 45 points higher, while his OBP was 37 points higher.
But think about this: If Moreland is the DH the vast majority of the time, does he need to have superior on-base skills? It would be nice, but I think just the additions of Choo and Fielder will help trickle down a better OBP through the lineup.
As long as Moreland is hitting a home run here and there, and can drive in between 55 and 65 runs, that is completely acceptable.
Morales is older, more injury-prone and a weaker defensive player than Moreland. He isn't athletic and would be another slow body in the middle of the order hitting behind Fielder and hamstring-hobbling Adrian Beltre.
Remember most of the Rangers' speed is at the top and bottom of the lineup. Moreland isn't fast, but he can move well for being a fairly big guy.
Put it this way: With the offense Texas already has, which might be the best in baseball, is just 20 more RBI worth the additional money and draft pick Morales would cost? I don't think so.
Having another switch-hitter along with Jurickson Profar is a great advantage, but at what cost? Keep in mind that signing Morales means a Rangers' first-round pick going to Seattle. I don't like the sound of that.
One thing is guaranteed here. Moreland, as long as he is making less than $2 to $3 million per year, will always be outperforming his contract. It's no guarantee that Morales will outperform or even live up to what he could be paid this offseason.
Like signing Masahiro Tanaka, this is a question of a need versus a desire. Moreland is sufficient for the role he'll play this season. Morales, if signed, would likely be the full-time DH like Moreland. I expect Morales will command between $12 and $15 million per year for two to three years. Also keep in mind that Scott Boras is his agent. You know Boras will find a way to squeeze more money out of whichever club signs him. There's no debating that.
No, Texas should stand pat with what it currently has offensively. It would be a better option, if anything, to sign Jeff Baker and DH him against lefties. Moreland and Baker combined would likely cost less than Morales, while the Rangers would keep their draft pick.
All stats provided by ESPN.com.