BOSTON — The best acquisition of the Red Sox offseason was J.D. Martinez, who’s worth more money than they’re paying him. But Martinez is probably not the best value find of the winter. That title likely belongs to Mitch Moreland, making $6.5 million.
When the Red Sox cut Ramirez, they also believed Moreland could cut it. The brain trust felt, hoped, that the overall drop-off going from Ramirez to Moreland would be negligible.
The exact circumstances of Ramirez’s departure from the Sox came into question Friday because of a report that Ramirez is tied to a criminal investigation into an alleged drug ring. Regardless of how that situation plays out — Sox manager Alex Cora said after Friday’s 14-10 win over the Mariners that he hoped the report was not true — the torch was passed to Moreland about a month ago.
The Sox’ general struggles against lefties can make the decision to let Ramirez go seem questionable (from a baseball standpoint, of course). But there was no struggle for the team on Friday against southpaw Wade LeBlanc, who came into the night with a 2.63 ERA and six days earlier tossed 7 2/3 shutout innings against the Sox.
And overall, Moreland has indeed been sufficient in Ramirez’s absence.
Ramirez played his last game for the Sox on May 24. Since then, Moreland is hitting .280 with a .343 on-base percentage and .484 slugging percentage, helped by a 3-for-5 performance on Friday night. Martinez (4-for-5) was the star of the evening, one of the best Sox wins of the year after starter Steven Wright allowed 10 runs. But Moreland, batting clean-up behind Martinez, tied a season-high with three hits.
Red Sox hitters since Hanley Ramirez’s departure…— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) June 23, 2018
Benintendi: 8 HR, 6 2B, 2 3B, 14 BB, 1.059 OPS
Martinez: 8 HR, 6 2B, 0 3B, 14 BB, 1.053 OPS pic.twitter.com/aYJIumPHpL
There was a brief rough patch in mid-June, a 4-for-32 skid in eight starts and 10 games that knocked down some of Moreland’s gaudy numbers. He’s still carrying the fourth-best OPS on the team since Ramirez’s departure, at .827. Nos. 1 and 2 are Andrew Benintendi, 1.059, and Martinez, 1.053. Those monsters have eight home runs apiece.
Moreland, carrying a five-game hit streak into Saturday, seems to thrive in the clean-up role, too. He’s batting .351 in 23 games in that spot this season.
It's a lot easier to forget Ramirez with Moreland raking like that in Ramirez's old spot.