The first bit of good news for Red Sox Nation arrived last night in the comfortingly familiar form of Mitch Moreland, who will take his rightful place at first base in 2020.
Moreland took a considerable pay cut to stay with the club: he’ll make $3 million this season, with a club option for 2021. He made $6.5 million the last two seasons.
Moreland’s lefty bat has been an underrated component of the Boston lineup since 2017, often delivering a clutch RBI-base hit or mammoth home run. Before getting injured last season, he led the lineup in home runs for a significant portion of the Sox’ disappointing spring, hitting 13 home runs between Opening Day on March 28 and May 25. He finished the season with 19 home runs and 58 RBI in 91 games.
Despite the superstar-power of his teammates, Moreland’s contributions should not be overlooked. In 364 career games in Boston, he has a .782 OPS. He played on a broken toe for over a month in 2017; in fact, while most of his teammates were experiencing a downturn from 2016, he had the second-most doubles and third-most home runs, RBI, and walks on the team in 2017. And let’s not forget his enormous home run in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series, a 2-out, 3-run blast that finally put Boston on the board in the 7th inning, and started a rally that culminated in a 5-run 9th inning and a 9-6 victory.
At 34 years old and entering his 11th season in the big leagues, Moreland is now one of the most veteran players in the Boston clubhouse. It’s likely the Gold Glover will split time at 1st base with Michael Chavis – who can also play 2B – and will continue to be a mentor-figure to him, as well as Rafael Devers, and eventually, up-and-coming infielder Bobby Dalbec. It’s important to have players like Moreland for this exact reason, to bridge the gap between the old and new guard, and provide leadership, especially now, when the Red Sox are still without a manager.
Every team needs that modest, consistent player they can count on in the clutch, and Mitch Moreland is Boston’s.
Rejoice, Red Sox Nation, the Mitch is back.
Stats: Baseball Reference
Photo: Boston Globe