The free agent the Padres could’ve re-signed instead of Robinson Canó

Sep 23, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres designated hitter Mitch Moreland (18) bats during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 23, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres designated hitter Mitch Moreland (18) bats during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Padres should be one of several teams interested in free agent Mitch Moreland

The San Diego Padres signed Robinson Canó at the end of last week, but they could’ve signed Mitch Moreland, instead.

Moreland, whom the Padres acquired via trade from the Boston Red Sox in 2020, remains unsigned. It’s surprising that teams don’t appreciate what he has to offer: a Gold Glove at first base, an underrated bat, solid postseason experience, and veteran leadership. He’s also 36, three years younger than Canó, and has never been suspended for performance-enhancing substances, let alone twice.

It’s hard to compare the two in recent years, as Canó was suspended for the entire 2021 season. However, Moreland offers plenty of upside. Injuries limited him to 81 games in 2021, but he hit 10 home runs and 11 doubles. His career rates for home runs, walks, hard-hit balls, and exit velocity are above MLB average, and he has a career .996 fielding percentage at first base.

On the whole, Canó’s career is more impressive than Moreland’s, but part of that stems from the latter being what’s known as a ‘glue guy,’ the underrated, yet highly impactful second fiddle to a team’s stars. Guys like Moreland aren’t the ones in MVP conversation, but it doesn’t mean they’re not extremely valuable. In 2017, the Red Sox’ first season after David Ortiz retired, the team had to figure out how to win without one of the most powerful hitters of the last two decades. Moreland stepped up and had the fourth-most hits, second-most doubles, and third-most home runs and RBI in the lineup. He more than held his own in a lineup with Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, helping the team win their second consecutive division title.

Did I mention he played a significant portion of that season on a broken big toe?

Moreland has also been clutch in postseason games for the Texas Rangers, Sox, and Padres. Fans should recall his 3-for-6 performance against the Cardinals in the 2020 Wild Card game, as well as his NLDS double off the Dodgers.

Canó’s, who is 0-for-5 for the Padres so far, looks more like a clubhouse leadership signing, especially as a mentor to Fernando Tatis Jr., as the veteran and the wunderkind are both from San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. With Tatis getting injured – reportedly from reckless motorcycle riding – the Padres clearly feel that he needs some guidance from someone who’s been around the game for a while.

However, Moreland deserves a look from many teams and would’ve been a solid fit for the Padres. If he lands elsewhere, it’ll be another team’s gain.

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