Monday, January 6, 2014
Ranger Resolutions: More 1B production
By Richard Durrett
Note: This week, we're running a series titled "Ranger Resolutions" as we look at some things the Texas Rangers hope to do better in 2014.
Today's resolution: More first base production
This has been a Ranger resolution for years now without much success. Ever since the Rangers traded Mark Teixeira, a trade that helped reshape the franchise and lead it to its best years ever, the club has been without a truly productive first baseman.
It's a long list of players that have attempted to fill that spot. Chris Davis got a few chances and didn't reach his potential until leaving for the Baltimore Orioles. Justin Smoak was the heir apparent, but was dealt as part of the Cliff Lee deal in early July 2010. And many others have attempted to give the club some production, only to struggle with consistency.
You can't help but wonder what Mitch Moreland's season would have been like had he not hurt his hamstring. He was hitting .288 in June when he strained the hamstring. He never found his rhythm after that and finished 2013 with a .177 average in September as the Rangers went 5-15 to start the month and ended up in a Game 163. Still, Moreland had 23 homers and 60 RBIs, both career highs. And that may be one big reason the club is insisting on getting full value if they deal him. At this point, they don't have to, either.
In order to address this major need, the Rangers traded All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder. The blockbuster gives Texas a proven player at first base who has a powerful and productive bat. But with Moreland, the Rangers have some options. They could shift Fielder to designated hitter at times and play Moreland, the better defensive player, at first. Still, the Rangers have said repeatedly that Fielder is their first baseman.
But the Fielder acquisition all of a sudden gives the club a chance to vastly improve on some disturbing first-base offensive numbers. Texas scored 69 runs from first base in 2013, which was 10th in the AL. Only the Tampa Bay Rays generated fewer runs from that position and still made the postseason. The Rangers first base batting average was .223, the worst in the AL.
Fielder brings a career .286 batting average and an average of 35 homers and 107 RBIs per 162 games to Arlington. That should certainly help the Rangers finally make good on a longstanding resolution.