BOSTON (AP) First baseman Mitch Moreland has agreed to a $13 million, two-year contract to return to the Boston Red Sox and play for former teammate Alex Cora.
”He’s a great baseball guy,” said Moreland, who was on the Texas Rangers when Cora made a brief appearance there in 2010. ”He was a great teammate then, and I don’t expect anything different from him as a manager.”
Moreland, 32, spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Rangers. The 32-year-old left-handed batter hit .246 with 22 homers 79 RBIs in his first season with the team last year. His home run total was just behind Mookie Betts (24) and Hanley Ramirez (23) on the Red Sox, who hit an AL-low 168 for the season.
”I love playing here, love the guys, everything about it,” Moreland said in a conference call with reporters. ”Looking forward to being back and maybe taking care of some unfinished business.”
Moreland broke his toe last year, but never went on the disabled list, playing in a career-high 149 games.
”I don’t like to point fingers at things. I know it didn’t feel good,” he said. ”That’s who I am, I’m trying to go out there and play. … I’m not planning to break my toe this year, so hopefully we can stay out of that.”
Moreland gets $6.5 million in each of the next two seasons as part of the deal announced Monday. He can earn $500,000 annually in performance bonuses: $250,000 each for 500 and 550 plate appearances.
Red Sox baseball boss Dave Dombrowski said the team wanted to look around before bringing Moreland back. When Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies, that removed one of the big options.
”We jumped in at that point,” Dombrowski said. ”We figured we would move forward at that time.”
Moreland’s return could reduce playing time for Ramirez, who could be traded. Ramirez’s contract includes a $22 million option for 2019 that would become guaranteed if he has 1,050 plate appearances in 2017 and ’18 combined and passes a physical at the end of next season. Ramirez had 553 plate appearances last season.
Ramirez started 108 games at designated hitter and 17 at first base last season, when he was slowed by a left shoulder injury that required surgery in October. Bryce Brentz and Blake Swihart are DH options against left-handed pitchers.
”Hanley will be capable of playing first base this year,” Dombrowski said. ”If we open the season as we are right now with no other additions, I’m really not sure how that would split.”
Moreland won a Gold Glove in 2016 and was a finalist for the award last season. Dombrowski said his defense makes him more valuable than he may appear.
”There are a couple of guys that hit more home runs, that from an offensive perspective might be more appealing,” Dombrowski said.
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