Editor's Note: We'll spend the next two weeks taking a look at 10 questions that face the Texas Rangers this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 campaign. We call it our "Texas Ten."
Today's question: What does the club do about first base?
Ever since Mark Teixeira's departure in the critical July 2007 trade deadline deal that brought back Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz (among others), the Rangers haven't had a consistent, power bat at first base. They've certainly tried. Chris Davis showed some potential but didn't stick (he had a great 2012 in Baltimore). Justin Smoak was shipped to Seattle as the centerpiece in the Cliff Lee deal. And others have tried to nail down the spot but haven't done so with much success.
Right now the position belongs to Mitch Moreland. Is he a long-term solution? Well, perhaps we still don't know. In many ways, Moreland took a step forward this season. He continued to improve defensively at first, a position that he gets more and more comfortable playing at this level. He has a solid glove and earned the trust of manager Ron Washington, who would insert him late in games that he wasn't starting for defensive purposes.
Moreland hit .275 in 114 games in 2012. He had one injury -- a left hamstring strain -- that kept him out for a month in late June through July. Once back, he had his best moth of the season in August, hitting .329 with five homers and 20 RBIs. But he tailed off with a disappointing September (.205 average). Despite the DL stint, Moreland had 15 homers and 50 RBIs, nearly matching his totals in those categories from 2011, when he played in 20 more games.
Moreland has shown flashes of potential but hasn't put together an entire season yet. It's worth noting that he's only had two full seasons. The left-handed hitter has not fared well against left-handed pitching, either. He hit .239 against southpaws in 2012 as opposed to .281 versus right-handers.
The club's lack of a true regular at first base has caused some platooning. Washington has used Michael Young and Mike Napoli at first base against certain lefties, putting Moreland on the bench. Mike Olt, one of the club's top prospects, is learning first base. With his natural position at third and Adrian Beltre firmly entrenched in that position as one of the best in the game, Olt's playing time needs to come elsewhere. He played some at first in 2012 but could certainly get some more time there in 2013.
Texas could try to split up time again, though the Rangers could also add some free agents into the mix. Nick Swisher's name was talked about at the trade deadline as someone who could take at-bats at that spot. He's a switch-hitter and could play first base against lefties and even get some time in the outfield. A few of you have tweeted me asking if Ian Kinsler could play first, meaning Jurickson Profar could play second. You never know. There are a few free agents out there, but some of the top ones are left-handed hitters. Lance Berkman is interesting, if he doesn't retire. But there just aren't the big names out there that we've seen in the past (like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols).
Perhaps this is another area where the club could look at trades. But they would only do it with the idea that they could significantly updgrade that spot. No matter what happens, this is a big year for Moreland. He didn't stay healthy all of 2012 or have any kind of breakout year, but he did show some progress. Can he take another step forward in 2013?