Mar 21, 2013; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez (right) drives a golf cart with left fielder Michael Morse (center) and first baseman Kendrys Morales (left) squeezed into the front seat after batting practice before a game against the Chicago Cubs at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Kendrys, Please Stay Awhile

Apr 22, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales (8) is congratulated after hitting a home run during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

 

In any fairytale, epic poem, or heartwarming story there is always the hiccup, the conflict, the obstacle. Though Kendrys’ story isn’t necessarily the stuff of a bard’s ballad, his life as a Mariner has two such obstacles.

The first is the unshakeable mediocrity of the team so far this season A team more likely to trade Kendrys for young parts than have him batting cleanup in September for a team with a losing record. Don’t get me wrong, I still have hope that the Mariners can be competitive throughout the summer, but this still poses a threat to the Kendrys-Seattle love story.

The second obstacle looms large over many MLB players: Matt Wieters (Orioles), Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Shin Soo-Choo (Reds), A-Rod (Yankees), Prince Fielder (Tigers), Stephen Strasburg (Nationals). As many are aware, that obstacle is a man called Scott Boras, the kingpin of baseball agents.

Boras is notorious for keeping his clients uncommitted, opting to test the waters of free agency in hopes of fetching top dollar. He is the master of framing talent, putting a doily under the rosy qualities and discreetly playing-down those most troublesome.

Why does this matter, anyways? Well, because Kendrys Morales is a Boras client. And also, Kendrys needs to stay in Seattle, in a Mariners uniform (not just at Pike Place eating Texas donuts) for the foreseeable future.

In 2009 Kendrys was a force for the Anaheim Los Angeles Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim– What the heck is their official name? He was an everyday first baseman who hit for average and power, with robust OBP and Slugging percentages. The Angels won the AL West that year, finishing 97-65, ten games ahead of the Texas Rangers. Kendrys was a major piece in that winning puzzle.

His numbers looked like this: .306/.355/.569 (.924) triple-slash. 152 GP. 34 HR. 108 RBI. 43 2B. 86 R. Those are phenomenal numbers. The only thing that really stands out is the mediocre .355 OBP from a .306 batting average. He had only 46 BB to 117 SO. But aside from that he was a professional, valuable Major League Slugger. The Mariners need a 30/100 guy in the lineup.

He finished 5th in the AL MVP voting that season. He was 26 years old; a bright future ahead of him.

But in 2010, against the Mariners no less, his season ended prematurely when he broke his ankle celebrating a grand slam walk off victory with the Angels. He was off to a good start that season. But his injury kept him out the rest of the summer and the entire 2011 season.

And here we are today, May 28th, 2013, and Kendrys is a Seattle Mariner. He has batted 3rd or cleanup all season, and he has been on a tear. He is 29 years old.

He should be feared in the middle of the Mariners lineup, one of the few consistently professional hitters on the Major League squad.

Please Kendrys, stay in Seattle awhile. We would love to have you around for years (three, preferably) to come.

Before my flowery lamentation turns too gushy, let’s look at the raw numbers, the baseball evidence, to see why exactly the Mariners need to keep Morales in Seattle.

Starting with a basic comparison of this season’s numbers to those in 2009:

2009: .306/.355/.569 (.924) triple-slash. 152 GP. 34 HR. 108 RBI. 43 2B. 86 R. 46 BB. 117 SO.

2013 (thus far): .300/.373/.479 (.852) triple-slash. 50 GP. 6 HR. 28 RBI. 16 2B. 21 R. 18 BB. 35 SO.

2013 (season):  .300/.373/.479 (.852) triple-slash. 156 GP. 19 HR. 87 RBI. 50 2B. 65 R. 56 BB. 109 SO.

Even though the first 50+ games of the season are a smaller sample size to stretch out for the entire season, there is still a lot to be seen in the 2009 to 2013 Morales comparison.

Batting averages for all intents and purposes are identical. His OBP is 73 points higher than his batting average this season, which is a 2o point boost in walks from his 2009 season. And though his slugging is 90 points lower so far this season, I expect to see that number jump a bit with a few more homers now that he is getting into his groove. But still, an .852 OPS isn’t too shabby for the middle of a MARINERS lineup.

He will play in the 150-155 game neighborhood, pending injury. And though these projections are a bit soft on HR and RBI, it is no stretch to expect a 20+ HR and 90+ RBI season for Morales the way he has been hitting. His walks are up, and his strikeouts are down.

His offensive numbers look good, and the way he has been seeing the ball and hitting to all fields it’s no fluke either.

What’s more, we’ve seen Morales play 1B regularly this week with the oblique injury to Smoak. He’s looked good in the field. Strong on his ankle. Ready to play 1B or DH whenever and wherever the Mariners need him.

So Morales needs to stay a Seattle Mariner for a few more years.

Yes he is a veteran, and yes he has had a major injury. But he is still only 29 years old, and he has proven he can hit in the Show, even in the slightly reduced confines Safeco Field, and he looks as spry and healthy as ever (maybe spry isn’t the best word to describe Morales’ mobility, spry is more apt for someone with Montero-type speed).

There is nothing wrong with giving Morales a 3 year/36 million dollar contract. That is a fair price for his age, skill set, and value for this team.

However, the challenge for the Mariners organization will be getting those numbers. So even if Morales lasts through the trade deadline, which I hope he does, that second obstacle becomes a big one. If Morales continues on this pace for the season, Boras can sell him to the AL teams. As a DH, and a regular and/or pinch 1B, Morales would be a great final piece for a team on the edge of playoff contention. Or the edge of World Series contention (the Orioles are the first team that come to mind here. They don’t really have a DH and with Morales that line up of Markaikas, Machado, Jones, Wieters, Davis, and Morales would terrify AL pitching staffs).

But the Mariners need to spend the money to keep a guy like Morales around. I like Morse too as a power guy, but Morales has been a key to the infrequent success of the Mariners this season. So there is no reason to think he wouldn’t be a key to frequent success and contention for the Mariners this year and beyond.

A mid-season extension is unlikely between the Mariners and Morales for obvious reasons. Morales has only been here for 4 months (including spring training), and we don’t even know if he likes Seattle or this organization. And, again, Boras loves to test the free agent waters.

That’s okay, though. The Mariners have shown a willingness to offer the money to guys they want to come to (or stay in) Seattle– the King, anyone?

I would maybe even go as far as 4 year/56 million for Morales, but that is the ceiling. He would be worth every penny to this team.

Mariners: keep Morales around. He is worth the money, and the fan base will appreciate a legitimate investment in offensive power-production.

Keep Morse too, though that conversation is for another day. I can see Morse giving the Mariners a “hometown” discount. He is so happy and excited to be in Seattle. And Seattle is happy to have him.

But Boras won’t bargain. He won’t budge from his bottom line.

But that’s okay. Because the Mariners will pay the right price to keep Morales in a Mariners uniform.

That is if Morales remains in the Mariners dugout passed the trade deadline.

Wow… those two are way to big to share a golf cart. But I sure hope they will share the Mariners clubhouse, dugout, and uniform for years to come.

Tags: Kendrys Morales Seattle Mariners

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