While most of the rumors surrounding them involve ace left-hander David Price, the Rays have another move they have to make in the coming weeks, and that is finding a first baseman. One name that we have discussed is Mitch Moreland of the Texas Rangers, and now that is a possibility the Rays are actually looking into, as reported by Jayson Stark of ESPN. Stark also mentioned a possible trade scenario: Moreland for Matt Joyce. Is that a trade that could really work out for both sides?
From a purely positional standpoint, the trade appears to be something worth looking into. Joyce’s playing time in the Rays’ outfield appears scant with Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, and David DeJesus set to man the three spots, and while Joyce could slide to first base, he has never played there his entire career. Moreland, meanwhile, is now blocked at first base by Prince Fielder. Moreland is capable of playing the outfield, but he has always been poor defensively there, and he doesn’t hit enough to be a good option for DH. Moreland could be the Rays’ starting first baseman while Joyce could start in left field for the Rangers against Rangers, especially if they think recent acquisition Michael Choice is not big league ready. Where does that proposal go wrong?
The first thing to note is that Moreland has three years remaining under team control while Joyce has only two and Joyce is projected to make $1 million more in arbitration. If Joyce was a noticeably better player, that wouldn’t make much of a difference, but is that really the case? Moreland may not have Joyce’s offensive upside, but he is much more capable against left-handed baters and much more of a consistent player. His experience at first base does not hurt him either in this case. Joyce is less versatile both offensively and defensively and has one less year of team control. That does not mean he is worse player than Moreland, but he may not give the Rangers enough of a reason to change their status quo.
At the end of the day, the Rangers will likely fill their left field vacancy with a free agent like Nelson Cruz and sign another player to occupy designated hitter. Matt Joyce is a solid player, but the Rangers are not crazy about him and are not going to be as motivated as the Rays to find him his at-bats, especially with them expecting to make other moves. A deal to acquire Mitch Moreland could very well be in the cards for the Rays, but expect the Rangers to get a prospect in return.