The Seattle Mariners have been seeking offensive help since the winter and announced they have acquired Kendrys Morales from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor. It’s a few months later than the M’s preferred, but they added a hitter they wanted all along.
Morales is set to make about $7.4 million this season after signing a pro-rated one-year, $12 million deal in June. The Mariners will pay about $4.5 million for the switch hitter for the rest of 2014.
Morales brings another bat to a lineup that has two legitimate threats — three when Michael Saunders is healthy, but he’s not expected back for at least another 3-4 weeks — and despite Morales’ slow start with the Twins should help the Mariners.
Most deadline acquisitions help only marginally and this is no different, even if Morales repeats his rate stats from a year ago with Seattle when he batted .277/.336/.449. Morales is not greatly impacted psychologically by Safeco Field having hit .282/.339/.472 at home in 2013 and turning in a solid year as a right-handed batter (.353 OBP, .440 SLG).
Morales is not a game-changing addition to the lineup, however — few players in the game would be in this scenario and none of those are trade available — suggesting the Mariners need to continue to add to what they have, particularly in the outfield.
Immediately, though, Morales can be inserted into the lineup regularly — batting cleanup or in the No. 5 hole, depending on the pitching matchup. Despite the fact he wasn’t hitting prior to the trade, there’s a good chance he hits enough to be a significant upgrade at designated hitter — and perhaps occasionally at first base — compared to what the club has been getting from Corey Hart.
One scout I spoke to said he thought Morales just looked like he was in “January shape” through the All-Star break, perhaps carrying a few extra pounds from all the time off until he finally signed. He’s not considered lazy, however, and it won’t take a lot for him to be better than what the club has now.
The M’s must make a 25-man roster move to clear space for Morales, and it should be designating for assignment Hart, who hasn’t even shown signs of being useful since his return from the disabled list July 4. The club doesn’t need 40-man space for Morales, as they had room already and Pryor’s evacuation clears another spot.
Pryor still is battling back from a shoulder injury but has regained some of his velocity, sitting 91-93 mph with his fastball but flashing mid-90s at times. He has a hard cutter-like slider in the 86-89 mph range and has a curveball and changeup he can go to on occasion.
Seattle gave up almost nothing for a chance of a decent upgrade at DH and an outside chance of being a significant
addition to the lineup.
The club cannot be finished, however, and I am told they have not stopped communications with other clubs, even after announcing the trade for Morales. It appears GM Jack Zduriencik is indeed seeking more offensive help — outfielders, undoubtedly — as well as a starting pitcher.
In the end the deal for Morales is a solid one, though by itself doesn’t do a ton. In tandem with an outfielder or two, it’s a solid upgrade and one that did not cost the club anything that will hinder their chances at more, and more importantly, something bigger if they get the chance.
The Mariners should not give up trying to address center field, even though that market is very thin and expensive, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to land a pair of corner outfielders, even if it’s a platoon set such as Chris Denorfia and Alejandro De Aza, for example. The M’s can do better than that, however, but it will cost them dearly.
Marlon Byrd’s 2016 option, which vests with 1,100 plate appearances in 2014-15 or 550 in 2015 alone, is a large snag in those discussions from my perspective, considering $8 million is a lot to pay a 38-year-old who may have to serve as a DH at that point and is not better than average
in the outfield at present.
The names Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo will not go away, either, but the cost for Ramirez is prohibitive and Viciedo is a terrible outfielder whose offensive game is a terrible fit for Safeco Field. Alex Rios remains a long shot due to the two clubs not matching up well and the Tampa Bay Rays are very likely to wait it out another week to determine exactly what they are going to do.
On the starting pitching front, names such as Bartolo Colon, Jorge De La Rosa, Jake Peavy, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood are being thrown around. Some a lot more serious than others. It does not appear San Diego is all that serious about moving Ian Kennedy.
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