Kendrys Morales, the 1B/DH who declined both the qualifying offer of $14.1 million and reportedly a three-year, $30 million offer from the Seattle Mariners last summer, remains a free agent. There are a handful of clubs that need offense, a similar number that have space for a player like Morales.
Draft pick compensation has impacted Morales’ market, but as soon as the draft begins next Thursday, the compensation dissipates, suggesting Morales will not sign before then, but could sign with a club shortly thereafter.
The Rangers weren’t a fit for a 1B/DH type in the least until Prince Fielder discovered he needed surgery and would miss the rest of the 2014 season. But the Rangers may not be as ideal a fit as it appears on the surface. The club has Mitch Moreland to man first base and while he’s not exactly a first-division performer he’s doing so at $2.65 million for 2014. Morales is likely to cost twice that figure, if not a number approaching $8-9 million.
The Rangers may be more likely to add to their franchise record $133.5 million payroll with pitching, since lefties Matt Harrison and Martin Perez are out for the year, suggesting a trade that lands them a Jeff Samardzija, A.J. Burnett or even Cliff Lee if he turns up healthy may be more necessary than adding a bat.
The lack of a pure designated hitter also gives Ron Washington the flexibility to half-rest veterans such as Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo and Alex Rios.
The Mariners now have a need at DH with Corey Hart on the shelf for at least another month, and even with a healthy and hitting Hart, there’s room for Morales. The Mariners can use Morales and/or Hart at first base some, as Justin Smoak has done nothing to warrant everyday at-bats if there is a better option that day.
The Mariners are not impacted by the draft pick compensation unless another club signs Morales before the draft next week, at which time they would essentially swap which pick they sacrifice for signing Robinson Cano. As it stands, the club will lose their second-round pick.
The Pirates, being a National League club without the benefit of the DH except in AL-park interleague play, appear as if they have shored up their first base issues with Ike Davis, who is batting .283/.377/.396 since coming over in a trade from the New York Mets.
Sacrificing pick No. 24 to add Morales, who may not be an ideal everyday fixture in the field — fringe-average glove, potential injury risk — appears too pricey. Such an addition would likely mean the bench for Davis, who doesn’t possess the kind of versatility reserves generally need for the NL game, or a platoon of sorts, which reduces Morales’ value to the Pirates overall, clearly making the price, in terms of the pick as well as salary, prohibitive.
New York Yankees
Scott Boras was waiting for this. It’s late May and the New York Yankees may now be a fit for Morales, with Mark Teixeria experiencing further issues with his wrist and the club lacking production from the DH spot — .659 OPS from the DH is No. 14 in the AL, ahead of only Seattle’s .608.
The Yankees would sacrifice pick No. 55, their second-round pick, if they signed Morales before the draft, but doing so may give them the edge over other suitors who much prefer to avoid losing a draft pick.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels aren’t having issues scoring runs and their DH spot has produced a .472 slugging percentage despite a poor .309 OBP and .228 average.
Adding Morales could allow Mike Scioscia to rest Albert Pujols more regularly, but a pre-draft deal isn’t happening in Anaheim as the Halos would give up the No. 15 pick in the first round.
The Angels, right now, are a long shot even after the draft, if it’s even something they’d consider at all, especially with Josh Hamilton due back and Scioscia’s preference to have the DH spot open to use to rest regulars.
Yes, the Oakland Athletics, whose DH’s are batting .263/.349/.464 for the year, could be a dark horse for Morales’ services.
Oakland’s first basemen are triple-slashing just .212/.285/.333, equaling the second-worst production in the AL from the position. Adding Morales can help that directly, or allow Bob Melvin to use Brandon Moss more at first base, or both. Neither are considered more than passable gloves at first, but a timeshare at both first base and DH could create an even deadlier offensive lineup for the division-leading A’s.
Salary could be the kicker here, despite the club extending themselves to $82.3 million to start this season, highest in team history and $20 million higher than a year ago.
New York Mets
At this point the Mets appear to be a long shot, both from Morales’ standpoint and the team’s. Morales is likely to seek a chance to win or put up big numbers, or both. Citi Field is not going to be friendly for him ,and the Mets, who fired their hitting coach this week, aren’t one of the better bets to stay in contention throughout the summer.
That could change over the next 2-3 weeks, so if Morales
remains available in mid-June, the Mets may still be a potential fit.
Injuries between now and Morales’ signing date, whenever that ultimately is, can add teams to the pile. There are teams that need offense, such as Kansas City, that don’t appear to be fits for Morales. Billy Butler is the Royals’ everyday DH and the only other position for he or Morales, first base, is occupied by Eric Hosmer.
The Cleveland Indians have struggled at the plate and have suffered some injury issues of their own, but finances kept them off my initial list. They invested in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn last offseason and wanted to extend Justin Masterson this past winter, but it doesn’t seem all that plausible they might be allowed to bid for Morales, let alone win a bidding war.
National League teams with first base needs might make a phone call, but ultimately it’s likely they wait for injured players to return or for struggling fixtures to return to form.
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