Not too long ago, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kendrys Morales would not return to the Seattle Mariners for the 2014 season. He rejected the qualifying offer, which in and of itself doesn’t mean all that much. All thirteen players who received a qualifying offer rejected them. However, since said rejection, there was very little buzz around the Mariners and Morales.
The M’s were focusing on bigger and better things, and I don’t know if you know this, but they signed Robinson Cano. The talk from there was around the possible addition of a starting pitcher, and actual additions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, both of which helped to quell any remaining chances of Morales coming back to Seattle.
But now, with the market for remaining free agents seeming to shrink more and more each day, rumors connecting the Mariners with Morales have popped back up. The Mariners and Nelson Cruz were long partnered in every writer’s free agency update, but he just signed a one -year, $8M deal with the Orioles. Because of that, with the Mariners seemingly still looking to improve, there seems to be a reasonable chance that Morales re-ups with Seattle.
If you had asked me just a month or so ago whether or not I wanted Morales back, it would probably be a “no,” or at the very least a “probably not, but it depends on the price.” The reason for this was that this team already employs more than it’s fair share of first base and DH types.
Now, this is still the case. Hart, Morrison and Justin Smoak all belong at one of those spots in an ideal world. However, it sounds like Lloyd McClendon‘s plan is to use Hart in right field as much as possible, likely with Smoak at first and “LoMo” at DH.
If Hart is going to be in the outfield no matter what, I have no problem bringing in Morales to DH, flipping LoMo over to first, and giving Smoak the boot, whether it be in a package with Nick Franklin, or down to Triple-A/The Street.
Hart has injury concerns, and has never been particularly good in the outfield. Ideally, he would be at DH or first base, and the team would employ an actual outfielder to man right. But the M’s probably don’t have an actual outfielder who deserves the right field job.
On top of this, I didn’t expect Morales’ price to be this low. Obviously I have no real idea what his price is, but if Cruz’ deal is any indication, it is probably pretty reasonable, or low if you look at some of the ridiculous figures given out recently.
There are reports that Cruz turned down longer/larger deals to take the O’s 1/8 offer. (Side note, what a stupid thing to do if it’s true. Yeah, Camden Yards is a launchpad, but Cruz will be 34, and is completely one-dimensional. I have a hard time envisioning him cashing in next winter.) If that is the case, Morales may cost a bit more than Cruz did. This is a just an educated guess, but I don’t see Morales costing more than $20M over two years regardless.
So, if Morales’ eventual contract falls between 1/8 and 2/20, I think it becomes a no-brainer. He isn’t great overall, (1.2 fWAR and 2.7 rWAR last year, 1.7 and 2.2 in 2012) but he adds another good, not great, bat to the lineup. Barring some massive existential happening, he will be better than Justin Smoak in 2014 and beyond.
Take a look at the projected lineup with Kendrys Morales included:
That isn’t half bad, at least offensively. It is obviously still very much contingent on at least some of the “kids” producing at the level we expect them to, but I see a lot of potential there.
We have seen high upside lineups before, but this one is different. Those past lineups pretty much solely depended on inexperienced hitters who ended up struggling. This time around, those kids are flanked by a 7 WAR, superstar second baseman, and a couple other power bats.
I know it’s hard to believe, but there is something here. The season is going to have to break a certain way, but if it does, look for the M’s to keep things interesting.