Free agent first basemen. 77 comments

Teams have until 5:00 eastern today to make qualifying offers to their free agents. This year, the qualify offer is expected to be $15.8 million. If the player rejects the offer, the team gets the first-round pick from the team that eventually signs its free agent away. Players have seven days to accept or reject the offer. No player has ever accepted the qualifying offer. The first ten picks in the draft are protected. So if a team with one of the first ten picks signs a qualifying-offer-rejecting free agent, it would lose its second-round pick.

Yesterday, we talked about catchers. Below are the free agent first basemen, with their ages in parenthesis. According to CBS Sports, Chris Davis is the only free agent first basemen they predict will receive a qualifying offer.

Jeff Baker (35)
Chris Davis (30)
Corey Hart (34)
Kelly Johnson (34)
Garrett Jones (35)
Justin Morneau (35)
Mike Napoli (34)
Steve Pearce (33)
Mark Reynolds (32)
Sean Rodriguez (31)
Chris Parmelee (28)

Going into 2016, first base for the Rangers is an interesting dilemma. In 2015, it was split between right-handed hitting Mike Napoli and left-handed hitting Mitch Moreland.

Napoli is a free agent. Moreland is eligible for salary arbitration. To keep both will cost the Rangers at least $15 million. Is there better production they could get for that money?

Moreland owned first base last season until Napoli came along. Then he lost his at-bats against left handers. Moreland enjoyed his best season, perhaps the result of being injury free, perhaps the result of figuring out some things. What he didn’t figure out, though, was how to hit lefties, batting just .245. He also ended the year a dismal 0-for-13 in the playoffs. He’s 3-for-43 in post-season since 2010.

Mike Napoli had a resurgence once he was traded back to Texas in August. In 35 games he batted .295 with a surprisingly good on-base percentage of .396. He also hit five home runs. Because of that, the Rangers have expressed an interest in re-signing him. For how much? He made $16 million last season.

What are the Rangers free agent options? The list is Hollywood-actress deep. But there are a few noteworthy options.

Chris Davis is by far the best run producing option. But I’d say the chances of Davis coming back are the same as me getting a Christmas card from Tanner Scheppers. He is simply going to command too much, most likely more than $20 million a year, because he has turned into a home run machine since leaving the Rangers. I’d stay away.

Corey Hart is a quintessential Daniels-type-player—damaged, so thereby cheap. Not to be confused with the Canadian singer best known for the song, “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night”, when Hart was going well, he hit 31 home runs and drove in 102 runs (in 2011). He racked up 91 RBIs in 2008. He played only 35 games last year. Low risk, high upside. A Jon Daniels special.

Justin Morneu is the one player who, for years, I have lobbied long and hard for the Rangers to trade for or to sign. A former MVP, he was an RBI machine (130 in 2006, 129 in 2008) until a series of concussions reeled his career. He signed with Colorado and led the National League in batting in 2014, hitting .319 with 82 RBIs. He hit .310 last season in limited action.

I would take the money it would take to re-sign two half players in Napoli and Moreland, and use it to land one full player in Justin Morneau. We just saw the importance of contact hitters while watching the Kansas City Royals run through the playoffs. Morneau is one of those. He struck out only 60 times in 2014.

Morneau made $7.25 last year. Napoli and Moreland made a combined $19 million. For less than half the money it will take to retain Napoli and Moreland, the Rangers can make a major upgrade at first with Justin Morneau. It’s not about the money, it’s about the production. Why not get both?

Do it, Jon.