With each home run, Mitch Moreland transforms himself into the perfect rental.
Despite a modest two-game winning streak, the Red Sox project to be sellers leading into Major League Baseball's Aug. 31 trade deadline, and Moreland suddenly looks like a veteran with value.
Perhaps you haven't noticed, because the Red Sox are so terrible, but Moreland is quietly having one of the best seasons in the big leagues.
His three-run homer in the ninth inning Thursday iced a 7-1 win over the Orioles, continuing the hottest start of his career. Moreland is hitting .360 with seven homers, 17 RBIs, and a 1.288 OPS in just 50 at-bats. Among players with at least 50 plate appearances, only Nationals superstar Juan Soto has a higher OPS (1.438).
"He's consistent," said starter Nathan Eovaldi. "Every time. I feel like he was like that last year as well. As long as we can keep him healthy, he's going to be a huge key for us. Defensively, everybody knows how talented he is and everything over there.
"For this year, he's been coming up, it always seems like in a big situation as well. Hee was able to break the game open for us (Thursday), and it saves (Brandon) Workman from having to come into a game. Same in the past. He had the walk-off not too long ago, he has big clutch hits to get us back in the game. He's been huge."
The Red Sox have used Moreland judiciously, starting him against right-handers and allowing him at times to rest a sore knee. The results have been outstanding for a 34-year-old playing on a reasonable one-year, $3 million deal.
Moreland has been so good, in fact, that it's possible to envision him upgrading pretty much every National League contender at either first base, where he's a Gold Glover, or DH, where he could limit some wear and tear. Add his skills as a pinch hitter -- .289 with an .853 OPS lifetime, not including a momentum-shifting home run in Game 4 of the 2018 World Series -- and he'd make an ideal complementary piece for any contender.
So, whom should the Red Sox call first if they're looking to deal? A number of NL contenders make sense, but we'll focus on two duking it out in the NL West.
If the season ended today, the Rockies (13-12) and Diamondbacks (13-13) would own the final two Wild Card sports, just percentage points ahead of the Brewers and Mets. Each has clear holes that Moreland could fill.
Start with the Rockies. Colorado's offense has been especially top-heavy, with shortstop Trevor Story and right fielder Charlie Blackmon the two clear standouts, third baseman Nolan Arenado off to an uncharacteristically slow start, and the 1B/DH positions an area of weakness.
At first, veteran Daniel Murphy is hitting .289 with a .759 OPS, while DH Matt Kemp is off to a .264 start. Moreland represents a clear upgrade from either of them, even though the Rockies are already heavily left-handed. His power would certainly play in the thin air of Colorado.
Then there are the Diamondbacks. Arizona has received slightly below-average production from starting first baseman Christian Walker, who's hitting .266 with one home run. Walker does boast an .850 OPS against lefties, however, and could be useful in a platoon.
Like most NL clubs, the D'backs didn't start the year with an obvious DH on the roster, and as a result, nine players have cycled through that spot, led once again by Walker. Moreland could fortify one or both spots, especially against right-handed pitching. And Arizona's front office has no shortage of Red Sox connections, from GM Mike Hazen to assistant Amiel Sawdaye.
In either case the return will likely be modest -- a low-level prospect or two -- but that's how rebuilds start. The beauty of the short season is that the few non-contenders will find themselves in a position of strength at the trade deadline.
The Red Sox are looking like one of those teams, and Moreland suddenly looks like one of their most intriguing assets.