Construction on the roster of the American League West division champion Texas Rangers for the 2017 season will be taking place over the next couple of months leading up to spring training in February. One position that may draw attention during that time will be first base.
Mitch Moreland has played a majority of that position for the Rangers since being called up in 2010, but he’s now a free agent and coming off another season where many felt he underperformed at the plate. However, Moreland did win a Gold Glove for his defensive work during the 2016 season. But there’s still questions on whether the Rangers will give him more time to live up to the potential they originally saw in him, or let him walk away and roll the rice with someone else.
And if they do decided not to resign Moreland, what options do they have to replace him?
One possibility could be Joey Gallo. He’s been one of the Rangers top prospects for the last three years. Gallo has played third base and left field for the Rangers when called up, but also started seeing time at first base in the minors last season. However, the issue with Gallo isn’t so much on the field as it is at the plate. While he’s known for his mammoth home runs, Gallo also has a high strikeout rate and at times has looked lost against major league pitching. The thought process has always been if Gallo cuts down on the strikeouts without losing power, he can be a perennial All-Star.
Another option the Rangers have at the minor league level is Ronald Guzman. The 22-year old was part of the 2011 international signing class that included Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor. Guzman was a Texas League All-Star at first base for Double-A Frisco last season before being promoted to Triple-A Round Rock, hitting 16 home runs with 67 RBI’s in 127 minor league games. While Guzman is on the Rangers 40-man roster, more seasoning in Round Rock will likely be the plan to start the year, unless he tears it up in spring training.
The free agent market isn’t exactly stocked with big names, but one does stands out. Could the Rangers once again bring back Mike Napoli? And just as important, would Napoli, a fan favorite during his time with the Rangers, be interested in coming back after the Rangers let him walk away twice before?
Napoli had a solid season for the American League champion Cleveland Indians, hitting 34 home runs with 101 RBI’s. Right now, the Rangers are not among the teams rumored to be in on the Napoli sweepstakes, but division rivals Houston and Seattle are. Plus, it sounds like the door is still open for Napoli to return to Cleveland. There was the feeling the Rangers should have resigned him last season instead of sticking with Moreland. Striking a deal with Napoli to return to Arlington could be a way to make up for that, if the price is right.
After that, the list gets smaller. Players such as Justin Morneau and Logan Morrison might raise some interest, but much excitement. Morneau is a former American League MVP, but production has dropped recently while he continues to battle the injury bug. A couple of first base/outfielders are also available in Toronto slugger and former Rangers prospect Edwin Encarnacion, along with Baltimore Orioles All-Star Mark Trumbo, but come with a heavy price tag.
The fact that there’s a weak market and the fear that the prospects are not ready yet could play into Moreland’s hands once again, allowing the possibility of another one-year deal to be worked out to stay. Or maybe another team wants a shot at Moreland and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Either way, the spotlight on first base for the Rangers will be shining bright during the offseason and into spring training.
Written by C. James