Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland will forgo ankle reconstruction surgery and attempt to return from his injury without a procedure, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The move could potentially have Moreland back in three-to-four weeks, rather than the three-month timetable announced by the team on Sunday.
With Prince Fielder already sidelined by a season-ending neck injury, the Rangers have depended on Moreland as their starting first basemen in recent weeks, making his injury all the more painful. Looking at a three-month timetable, the team likely would’ve needed to grab a replacement, but it appears they’ll try to expedite Moreland’s recovery instead.
Unfortunately, Moreland hasn’t played at that well this season, so even his return leaves the Rangers mired in uncertainty. Over 184 plate appearances this season, the first baseman has batted .246/.297/.347 with two home runs and a 12-to-43 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Those numbers add up to a 78 OPS+, per Baseball-Reference, which is 22 percent below the league average.
Considering the alternatives, however, it’s understandable that Texas would prefer to simply have Moreland back at this stage. Over the prior four seasons, he was roughly a league-average hitter, and he showed some extra power in 2013 with a career-high 23 homers.
While he’ll certainly never be Fielder, Moreland stands as a better option than Donnie Murphy, who appears to be the de facto starter at first base while things get sorted out. Murphy, a longtime journeyman, has batted even worse than Moreland this season, hitting .220/.302/.319 over 106 plate appearances.
Going with Murphy long-term probably isn’t an option, so any setback to Moreland’s ankle will likely signal a midseason deal for Texas. Any addition would likely be a rental, however, given the presence of Fielder’s massive contract.