The Mariners will "definitely" make a qualifying offer to impending free agent Kendrys Morales, general manager Jack Zduriencik said on 710 ESPN Radio in Seattle (h/t: MLB.com's Greg Johns on Twitter).
A qualifying offer — the average salary of baseball's 125 highest-paid players — will be a one-year deal worth roughly $14MM this winter. Should Morales reject the offer, the Mariners would receive a compensatory first-round draft pick were he to signed elsewhere. The team that signed Morales, in turn, would lose its own first-round pick (or second-round pick, if that team has a protected draft pick).
Morales, 30, had a solid season with the Mariners and could likely find multiple guaranteed years on the free agent market, but a qualifying offer figures to hurt him perhaps more than it would most players. Morales offers little in terms of defensive value and is best utilized as a designated hitter. That limits his market to American League teams in the first place, and forcing a team to forfeit a first- or second-round pick to sign him will likely give a GM pause. Morales' .277/.336/.449 batting line was above the league-average this season (123 OPS+, 116 wRC+), but not to the point where he's considered an elite slugger. The list of teams looking to surrender a top pick for a good, but not great DH doesn't figure to be particularly long.
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and the U.S.S. Mariner touched on this topic in late August, ultimately concluding that Morales' summer swoon made a qualifying offer a poor investment for the Mariners. Morales did pick things up a bit with a .270/.330/.490 slash line and six homers in September, giving him a total of 23 bombs on the season. Extension talks with agent Scott Boras reportedly didn't get too far off the ground earlier this year, but he could always reject a qualifying offer and sign a new contract with Seattle.