Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Where will Kendrys Morales sign?
By David Schoenfield
Once the amateur draft begins on Thursday, expect free agent Kendrys Morales to sign a deal soon after. That's when Morales will no longer be tied to draft-pick compensation, thus making his services more attractive. Morales should expect a deal less than what Stephen Drew received from the Boston Red Sox -- one year, $14 million, prorated to about $10 million for missing most of the two months -- since Morales isn't as valuable as Drew, as he's largely limited to DH duties and playing first base in a pinch and is one of the slowest players in the majors.
Still, he's a switch-hitter who hit .277/.336/.449 for the Seattle Mariners last year, which makes him a viable middle-of-the-order bat in a lot of lineups these days. So where does he go? Here are the likely choices:
Texas Rangers -- Since Prince Fielder went down for the season, the Rangers have primarily used Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Choice as their designated hitters, with Choo playing left field when he's not DHing and Mitch Moreland taking over at first base. Choice is hitting .208/.287/.308 so Morales would appear to be a major upgrade. The Rangers could use the lefty part of Morales' switch-hitting as well (they have a .770 OPS versus lefties, .694 versus righties). Despite all their injuries, the Rangers are 29-28; it's a question of whether GM Jon Daniels thinks the pitching staff can get healthy enough to contend.
Seattle Mariners -- Mariners' DHs are hitting .189/.274/.308 with six home runs, so Morales clearly fills a hole. He'd likely slot in behind Robinson Cano as the team's cleanup hitter and would boost an offense that is tied for ninth in the AL in runs per game but last in batting average and on-base percentage. In fact, the Mariners aren't getting much from first base, either, with Justin Smoak hitting .217/.290/.377 and just about out of chances as an everyday player. Considering their gaping holes at both positions, the Mariners are probably the one club in position to offer Morales a two-year contract. The Mariners are a game over .500 and have allowed the second-fewest runs per game in the league, so they're desperate to add some offense.
Cleveland Indians -- With Nick Swisher struggling, Indians first basemen are hitting .226/.333/.358 with five home runs. They've used a revolving door at DH and have received a .233 batting average and five home runs there, although Lonnie Chisenhall's hot hitting of late has earned him regular playing time, which could push Carlos Santana to DH duties once he returns from his concussion. With Cleveland, the big question is whether spending the money is worth an upgrade that would impact its lineup as much as Texas or Seattle.
New York Yankees -- The Yankees have reportedly reached out to Morales, even though their roster is filled with DH types or guys who need to play there on occasion in Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran and Derek Jeter. But Yankees DHs are hitting .203/.259/.372, so you can see the interest in Morales, who would also provide insurance for Mark Teixeira at first. Soriano, with 55 strikeouts, six walks and a .230 batting average, hasn't been the same dangerous hitter he was last summer, so the Yankees may just decide to move on from him.
Kansas City Royals -- The Royals seemingly have first base and DH filled with Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, but those two have combined for two home runs -- one apiece. Not exactly what you want from your projected No. 3 and 4 hitters. Still, it's hard to imagine the Royals spending the money on Morales. They need to hope Hosmer and Butler get it going.
The Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates are two more possibilities, but with Aramis Ramirez returning the Brewers will likely slide Mark Reynolds back to first base and live with his low average and strikeouts. Ike Davis has a .380 OBP for the Pirates and their biggest problem has been the starting rotation, not first-base production.
What do you think? Where does Morales end up?