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Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Hot Stove Talk: Kendrys Morales

By Richard Durrett

Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.

Today's player: Kendrys Morales

The 30-year-old is certainly familiar with the AL West, having played six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and last season with the Seattle Mariners. Morales played in 156 games in 2013 for the Mariners, mostly as the DH, hitting .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBIs. He had a .785 OPS and a 2.7 WAR.

Morales is a switch-hitter and is represented by Scott Boras, who made the rounds in Orlando at the GM meetings and stressed that Morales is a solid first baseman. He made 31 starts there last year and 28 in 2012, so he's played some in the field, but it hasn't been his primary position since 2009.

If some of you are surprised by Morales' numbers, it might be because he did not hit well against the Rangers in 2013. He batted .219 in 73 at-bats with three homers and 12 RBIs. The numbers dropped off even more at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as he hit .182 (6-for-33) with six RBIs.

Why he makes sense: The Rangers are still looking for bats and before you scoff at the notion of Morales, note that if the club did decide to move Mitch Moreland, they could have Morales platoon with Fielder if they wanted. Or perhaps Morales could play first and Moreland be the designated hitter. He's used to batting in the middle of the order, so he could be nice protection in the 5-hole for Adrian Beltre. Morales can hit for power. He had 22 or more homers in three of the past four seasons, including 34 in 2009. Morales knows the division too and his .282 average against left-handed pitching makes a first-base platoon tempting.

Why he doesn't make sense: Because the Mariners gave Morales a qualifying offer, the Rangers would have to give up a draft pick to sign him and with Prince Fielder in the fold, the need just isn't as great and may not be worth giving up that pick. And you're talking about a player seeking a multiyear deal that won't come cheap (though not as much as some of the other options on the market, either).

Bottom line: Morales is someone to keep in mind, but it would all depend on price. Texas must ask: Is Morales and the cost of the draft pick and contract a better option than Moreland? Morales can hit lefties, which Moreland can't, but it's a high price to pay. With left field more of a priority now, I think I'd pass.