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Kendrys Morales Rumors
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has lots of hot stove information to share in his latest Sunday Notes column…
- Kendrys Morales has already become a positive clubhouse figure in his short time with the Twins and Cafardo wouldn’t be surprised to see Minnesota try to extend the slugger. It’s also possible the Twins could deal Morales before the deadline and then re-sign him as a free agent this winter.
- The Diamondbacks seem willing to listen about trade offers for any player except Paul Goldschmidt, Cafardo notes. Martin Prado could be an attractive trade chip, though possible trade candidates like Bronson Arroyo and Mark Trumbo might not have enough time before the deadline to show that they’re healthy. “We’re meeting on it. Figures we are sellers, not buyers,” D’Backs chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said.
- The Red Sox “spent significant time watching Matt Kemp last week,” though Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told Cafardo that Kemp isn’t being traded. Kemp’s recent hot streak has “reinforced” his value to Colletti given the dearth of right-handed power options around the game.
- The Nationals could make Danny Espinosa available to second base-needy teams like the Giants or Blue Jays once Bryce Harper returns from the DL. With Harper back in the outfield, Washington would use Ryan Zimmerman at third and Anthony Rendon at second, leaving Espinosa without a regular job. Given Zimmerman’s shoulder problems and questionable future as a third baseman, however, I’d tend to think that the Nats would keep Espinosa as a valuable depth piece.
- Phillies outfielders Marlon Byrd and Ben Revere appear to be available, as Cafardo adds them to the long list of notable Philadelphia players who could be trade targets before the deadline.
- Red Sox catching prospect Christian Vazquez would be the top ask for any team looking to make a major trade with Boston. “That would be across the board, even for a major hitter. He’s major league-ready right now offensively and defensively,” a scout tells Cafardo. “We also think he’ll hit for some power in the majors. Because they have Blake Swihart, who a lot of teams will ask for as well, they probably would reluctantly give up Vazquez.” This same scout, however, says that between the two young catchers, he would keep Swihart.
- While Nate Schierholtz has only hit .207/.261/.313 in 249 PA this season, the Cubs will likely still trade the outfielder. Schierholtz is only signed through the end of the season and he is owed approximately $2.78MM in remaining salary.
- The Padres “would like to conduct a fire sale” and Chris Denorfia, Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Seth Smith could all be available. Cafardo notes that Smith would be a good fit in the Red Sox outfield.
- Several teams are interested in Grady Sizemore, who one scout feels will perform better now that he has had time to get re-accustomed to playing. “Whoever gets him next will probably get a better player than what Boston had. He needed more time, and with that problem offensively up there they [the Red Sox] couldn’t wait,” the scout said.
- The Blue Jays, Cubs, Marlins, Phillies and Rangers have been the teams who have been most aggressively scouting the major and minor league rosters of other clubs, Cafardo reports.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Arizona Diamondbacks | Ben Revere | Boston Red Sox | Carlos Quentin | Chase Headley | Chicago Cubs | Chris Denorfia | Christian Vazquez | Danny Espinosa | Grady Sizemore | Kendrys Morales | Los Angeles Dodgers | Marlon Byrd | Matt Kemp | Miami Marlins | Minnesota Twins | Nate Schierholtz | Newsstand | Philadelphia Phillies | San Diego Padres | Seth Smith | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
While the Rangers find themselves at least facing the unexpected possibility that they will be sellers in July, GM Jon Daniels tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the team isn’t thinking of trading Adrian Beltre. “We haven’t really considered it,” Daniels said when asked. “He’s our best player, team leader, Hall of Famer.” More from Heyman’s article and more on the AL West below…
- Beltre’s future aside, Heyman writes that the Rangers will have to look hard at dealing veteran pieces such as Joakim Soria, Alex Rios and even Elvis Andrus as they look to retool for the future in what has become a lost year due to injuries. However, Daniels says that his team isn’t giving up on 2014 yet, and it would take a “compelling baseball deal” to move one of the Rangers’ core players.
- Heyman also sheds some light on the Rangers‘ pursuit of Kendrys Morales. Texas made just a $3MM offer to agent Scott Boras to secure Morales’ services, only to be outbid by a Twins team that offered $12MM pro-rated. Shortly thereafter, the Rangers saw another first base/DH option go down with an injury, as Mitch Moreland suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
- The Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich looks at the oddity of service time by pointing out that Astros right-hander Asher Wojciechowski, who has never pitched an inning in the Major Leagues, is closer to free agency and has more service time than standout rookie George Springer. Wojciechowski was added to the 40-man roster this offseason and injured himself on Feb. 1, long before Spring Training was underway and players could be demoted to the minors. Because injured players cannot be demote to the minors — otherwise teams could demote injured players to save countless dollars — Wojciechowski has been on the Major League 15-day DL all season, earning service time and a $500K salary.
- The Athletics were keeping tabs on lefty Brad Mills for awhile before acquiring him from the Brewers, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The team has little starting pitching depth and was aware of the opt-out in Mills’ contract. Of being acquired in exchange for $1 (yes, one dollar), Mills told Slusser: “I thought it was a joke at first. I try not to take it as a value judgment on my worth. Whatever they had to do to make it work.”
The Twins‘ decision to sign Kendrys Morales is not only a short-term boost to the club but could have long-term benefits as well, writes Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs. While the Twins haven’t been good to this point, they’ve also been better than many expected, and adding Morales could help keep them in contention should other aspects of the team pick up. If not, Morales will become a valuable trade chip come late July. The elements of Morales game that scared other teams — rust and his price tag, specifically — will have faded, making him an above-average bat that can be added for a useful prospect.
Here’s more on Morales and the rest of the American League Central…
- The Twins‘ first call to agent Scott Boras regarding Morales came on Wednesday of last week, assistant GM Rob Antony tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Three days later, the two sides had an agreement in place. Berardino adds that the deal is a testament to GM Terry Ryan’s recovery from skin cancer treatment, as Ryan handled the entire negotiation process on his own without any assistance from Antony.
- Berardino also tweets that Jason Kubel, whom the Twins designated for assignment to clear roster space for Morales, indicated to Ryan that he likely wouldn’t have interest in accepting an assignment to Triple-A Rochester should he clear waivers.
- The White Sox are confident that they will work out a deal to sign third-overall draft choice Carlos Rodon, reports Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com. GM Rick Hahn said that the club went after the top player on its board, and was not deterred by the fact that he is being advised by Scott Boras. “I tend to be an optimistic guy,” said Hahn. “I never anticipate problems. Look, in reality, we have a history with Scott, a positive history with Scott. … A fair amount of this concern, or discussion on how this could be difficult, I think is unnecessary and really not significant to us determining what’s going to happen here.” Rodon’s slot comes with a $5.72MM allotment, but was said before the draft to be seeking a bonus of over $6MM. With a shade over $9.5MM in pool money at the team’s disposal, Chicago could potentially use savings from other picks if it decides to go over slot for Rondon.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
SUNDAY, 10:34am: The Twins confirmed the signing via press release.
SATURDAY, 2:00pm: Kendrys Morales and the Twins have agreed to terms, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. The deal is pending a physical. Morales will receive one year and a prorated portion of a $12MM salary, MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger tweets. That amounts to about $7.5MM. As FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal noted, that’s fairly similar to, but less than, the $10MM deal Stephen Drew recently received from the Red Sox. Since Morales will not spend the full season with the Twins, they will not be able to extend him a qualifying offer next offseason. Morales is represented by Scott Boras.
Morales had been connected to the Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and Brewers, and his signing with the Twins comes as a bit of a surprise. Morales, of course, was a free agent over the winter but had a minimal market after he declined a qualifying offer from the Mariners, which meant that any team that signed him (other than Seattle, which added Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in the offseason) would have to forfeit a draft pick. When the draft began, however, teams became free to sign Morales without losing a pick.
Morales, who turns 31 this month, has hit .280/.333/.480 in parts of seven seasons with the Angels and Mariners, including .277/.336/.449 last year. Since 2010, he has mostly been a designated hitter, although he played 31 games at first last season.
Morales seems likely to serve as Minnesota’s full-time DH, as Twins designated hitters have batted just .216/.323/.403 this year, and they have Joe Mauer at first base. The Twins have struggled in the outfield, but Morales has not played in the outfield since 2008. The Twins have used a variety of DHs this year, however, and by having Morales as their regular DH, they could use hitters like Josh Willingham less at DH and more in the outfield, potentially reducing the number of plate appearances for less productive outfielders like Jason Kubel and Chris Parmelee. Catcher Josmil Pinto has also logged significant time at DH.
Morales was one of several players this offseason who struggled in the free agent market after declining a qualifying offer. Drew only recently signed his prorated one-year deal with the Red Sox, and Nelson Cruz ultimately took a one-year deal with the Orioles. All three players ended up with significantly less than they would have gotten if they had accepted their qualifying offers.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
In case you missed it, the Twins finally brought an end to this year’s post-qualifying offer market, inking first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to a deal that will pay him at a $12MM annual rate (around $7.5MM for the rest of the year). Morales will ultimately take home slightly less than Nelson Cruz takes home from the Orioles, though he’ll have to play much fewer games to earn it and will not be eligible for a qualifying offer next year. (Of course, he will also fall well shy of the $14.1MM qualifying offer that he rejected.)
Here’s the latest on the Morales signing:
- The Mariners did make an offer to Morales within the last two days, tweets Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The value of the offer was not reported. Seattle, of course, will not receive any draft compensation for losing Morales, since he waited to sign until after the first day of this year’s amateur draft.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi says that he was not involved in any discussions about the possibility of adding Morales, reports Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “[W]e thought [Mark Teixeira‘s] injury wasn’t going to keep him out for a long period of time,” explained Girardi. “We were pretty confident that we were going to get [Carlos Beltran] back.” While New York had been said to be a possible suitor, the most recent report indicated that the team had been rebuffed when it asked agent Scott Boras to hold off on signing while the team evaluated the health of Teixeira and Beltran.
- Morales is likely to slot right into the Twins‘ MLB lineup in spite of his layoff, reports Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He figures to provide an immediate boost to the offense, even if he’s rusty, as Minnesota has received scant production from the first base and designated hitter slots in the lineup. On the other hand, it would be surprising to see the team take at bats away from Joe Mauer, and utilizing Morales as the primary DH will mean that the team can put only one of its two most productive hitters thus far (catchers Kurt Suzuki and Josmil Pinto) in the lineup. Of course, Suzuki remains a candidate to be traded away over the summer.
- Adding Morales represents another move that increases the Twins‘ ability to compete in the short term without sacrificing long-term value, writes Dan Szymborski for ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). Morales projects to be a roughly league-average DH, says Szymborski, but that sort of player would cost prospects to acquire via trade. And while the team may still have an uphill path to contention, it does sit just under .500, only five back in the AL Central and two-and-a-half out of the Wild Card. Like Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, who were inked to long-term deals over the offseason, Morales does not require Minnesota to cough up a draft choice.
Tyler Stubblefield was stuck at low-A ball last year for the Padres at age 25. This year, writes MLB.com’s Corey Brock, he played a key role in recommending the team’s first-round draft choice, N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner, as San Diego’s area scout for eastern George and North and South Carolina.
Here’s the latest from the National League:
- It is time for the Dodgers to initiate a shake-up, opines Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider link). While the team undeniably has talented pieces, they have not fit together well, says Olney, who recommends that the team consider bringing up top prospect Joc Pederson to play center and installing the defense-first Erisbel Arruebarrena at short. Of course, those moves would have repercussions involving key veterans Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, among others, but Olney says that dramatic action may be necessary with the club still sitting well back of the Giants in the NL West.
- The Brewers do not seem like a good fit for Kendrys Morales, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy writes on Twitter. McCalvy says that two key questions — Morales’s ability to handle first and the team’s ability to fit him in the payroll — make a signing unlikely.
- Ryan Zimmerman says that he is not sure that he will ever return full-time to third base for the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. “I don’t know if I’m the best option over there anymore,” he said. “I’ve always said I’ll play until someone is better than me, or I’m not the best option at that position.” It will be fascinating to see how the Nats proceed when Bryce Harper returns, which is expected to occur around the turn of the month. While the team would have several options heading into 2015 — Zimmerman could stay in left and the team could deal Denard Span, or he could move to first if Adam LaRoche leaves town — the mid-season calculus is even more complicated. It seems hard to imagine that the team would leave second base in the hands of Danny Espinosa while taking away significant at-bats from any of the other players just mentioned. It seems at least possible that the Nationals could explore some creative trade possibilities to right-size the everyday lineup.
- Pirates righty Duke Welker underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, reports Tom Singer of MLB.com (via Twitter). The towering 28-year-old was the player to be named later in last year’s Justin Morneau deal, but later returned to Pittsburgh in exchange for lefty Kris Johnson.
The Rangers are among several teams that are considering signing first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. With the first day of the draft now past, teams can sign Morales without sacrificing a pick.
As Grant notes, the Rangers are anticipating around $8MM in insurance claims to flow back to the club due to the injuries to first baseman Prince Fielder and pitcher Matt Harrison. Texas opened the season with a record $133.5MM payroll, but has struggled to play up to expectations with a series of notable injuries.
A serious pursuit of Morales would certainly signal that the club hopes to stay in contention in spite of its many losses. The Rangers stand at .500 entering today’s action, seven games back of the A’s in the AL West. Grant says that Texas is interested in adding another power bat alongside the struggling Mitch Moreland after losing Fielder from the middle of the lineup. Of course, Fielder and Moreland were already falling well short of their anticipated production, and Morales’s bat represents a clear upgrade over the team’s current internal options.
The Major League Baseball amateur draft is just hours away, and once it commences, free agent Kendrys Morales will no longer be burdened by the weight of draft pick compensation. While fellow draft-pick free agent Stephen Drew returned to the Red Sox recently, Morales elected to remain on the market and become the first free agent under the current CBA to wait beyond the draft to shed his associated compensation. He may not be waiting long, however, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Morales is likely to find a new home within the next day or two.
The Yankees have been connected to Morales of late, but Heyman reports that the team asked agent Scott Boras and Morales to wait on signing as they evaluate the health of injury-plagued switch hitters Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Morales isn’t inclined to play that waiting game, however, which makes other clubs more likely to end up with Morales.
Heyman lists the Brewers and Mariners as more likely destinations than the Yankees, noting that another team or two is in the mix at this time. The Rangers have indeed shown interest, he adds, but they aren’t as likely to sign Morales as Milwaukee, Seattle or the alleged “mystery team”(s). Morales has generated some interest on two-year deals, according to Heyman, but he may prefer a one-year deal to hit unencumbered free agency next winter.
Of course, many other reports have indicated that the Mariners simply don’t have the financial flexibility to add Morales after the large amounts they spent this offseason. The Orioles were said to have interest at one point, but executive VP Dan Duquette essentially closed those doors in an on-record interview with ESPN’s Buster Olney. Heyman also reported recently that the Royals could join the Morales bidding, though they’d likely need to clear some payroll first in order to make that happen.
The Diamondbacks announced today that outfielder A.J. Pollock underwent surgery to repair a right hand fracture and would not resume baseball activity for eight weeks. Pollock, 26, had been a rare bright spot on one of baseball’s most disappointing clubs, emerging with a .316/.366/.554 triple-slash with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 192 plate appearances. Here’s more from around the league:
- The Royals could enter the running to sign first baseman/DH Kendrys Morales to bolster a sagging offense, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While no serious discussions have happened to date, the club is not ruling out the possibility, adds Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star (via Twitter). According to Heyman, pursuit of Morales would require the Royals to move some salary off its books. Ticking through the team’s roster, the most obvious big-salary trade candidate (assuming, of course, that the team is looking to make a run) is DH Billy Butler, who earns $8.5MM this year and comes with a $12.5MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2015. But his defensive limitations and serious struggles this year make it somewhat difficult to imagine that the team will be able to find a buyer willing to take on enough salary to make the switch-out plausible — especially since clubs looking at Butler would presumably also have interest in Morales. (Then, there’s the question whether Kansas City could both lock up Morales and dump Butler or another contract in early June.)
- Meanwhile, the Yankees have made contact with Morales but are waiting to learn more on Mark Teixeira‘s wrist re-aggravation before acting decisively, Heyman reports. Turning to analysis, Heyman writes that the Yankees have many reasons to pursue Morales strongly, whether or not they get good news on Teixeira in the coming days.
- Informed of recent comments from Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino indicating that the club expects to re-engage him in extension talks, Jon Lester emphasized that he remains focused on the season at hand, reports Boston.com’s Maureen Mullen. “I think right now, obviously with us playing good baseball and us focused on what we need to do today, I think that’s where we need to stay,” he said. “The contract talks will come at the right time. … [T]hat time’ll come, whether it’s tomorrow, I don’t know. Whether it’s in the offseason, I don’t know. We’ll figure that out as we go.”
- Carlos Villanueva of the Cubs says that he and fellow righty Jason Hammel hope to stay with the team but realize they could be traded, reports MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. “What’s happened here the last couple years, you can’t help but wonder if you’re going to be one of those guys, too,” he said. “When they sign here, they know. They know the direction this team is going.” Both pitchers, explained Villanueva, have played with multiple clubs and understand the business of the game. “In a perfect world, we could stay here and build around the young guys, and we could be part of the upswing of the team,” he said. “That could still happen — we’re still here, we’re going to make the most of it.”
MLBTR’s pages are increasingly loaded with draft news, which means that June 5 is fast approaching. Of course, that also means that we are just days away from Kendrys Morales becoming the first ever player to wait out the draft and thereby relieve himself of the compensation that attached upon declining a qualifying offer. (Technically, teams can sign him without sacrificing a pick after the completion of the draft’s first day.)
So, with Morales set to become a true free agent — one who can sign with any team on equal terms, without any strings attached — where is he most likely to go? I’ll list the seven teams that seem, in my view, to be the most compelling possibilities, along with the ever-popular wild card option. (Choiced presented in no particular order; poll choices randomized; feel free to register complaints with my selections in the comments.)
- Yankees — We’ll start with the team most recently linked to Morales. The presence of Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira complicates this match-up, although Teixeira did suffer a potentially troubling set-back today. On the other hand, so did Michael Pineda, which emphasizes further that the rotation is likely a greater need (if not also the infield mix). Owner Hal Steinbrenner has indicated that the club could still unleash its vaunted spending capacity over the summer, but it remains an open question whether the cash would be better spent in other areas.
- Orioles — Baltimore was long viewed as a potential Morales suitor, at least before signing Nelson Cruz. As good as Cruz has been at the plate, he’s been terrible in the field, making it questionable whether the club would be interested in moving him to the outfield on a regular basis (he’s been splitting time about evenly thus far). The elbow questions surrounding catcher Matt Wieters also presents a barrier, as he may need to spend some or all of his time in the DH role. Indeed, executive vice president Dan Duquette has strongly downplayed the likelihood of a Morales signing for those very reasons.
- Rangers — The fit here is obvious: Morales represents a big left-handed bat who could pick up some of the slack for the injured Prince Fielder. But the club, which entered the year with a record $133.5MM payroll, has been treading water for much of the season after being crushed by injuries to Fielder, Jurickson Profar, and seemingly half of the pitching staff. Indeed, much of the latest discussion has centered upon whether, and if so how, Texas might turn into a trade-deadline seller, with GM Jon Daniels saying recently that the organization is not ready to give up but declining to rule out the possibility of making “adjustments” to the organization’s approach if the team falls further back.
- Angels — Could a return to Morales’s original employer be in the offing? The Halos rejected the overtures of agent Scott Boras back in December, with GM Jerry Dipoto noting that the team was uninterested in sacrificing a first-round pick and ultimately signing the grizzled Raul Ibanez. But the draft pick is no longer an issue, Ibanez has been poor, and the Angels are finally in position to make a real run at the post-season. Then again, prospect C.J. Cron has mashed in his first taste of the bigs and the team has something of a glut of talented outfielders in the fold (including the rehabbing Josh Hamilton) who could presumably absorb some plate appearances at DH.
- Athletics — Oakland always feels like a wild card. There may not be a need here, strictly speaking, but the A’s could see a chance to add value by plugging Morales in the DH slot. The hitter-only slot in the lineup has been given most often to Alberto Callaspo, who has been below average with the bat, with players like John Jaso and Yoenis Cespedes also getting significant time away from the field. But will the team have room to add that kind of payroll after entering the season well above its usual spending levels (or, if not, would it be able/inclined to create space via trade)? And would GM Billy Beane want to add a full-time DH to a roster that has thrived on matchups and flexibility?
- Mariners — A return to Seattle seemed the logical choice from the get-go, as the club plainly values Morales. That likelihood dissipated with the acquisitions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, but injury issues for that pair — along with an underwhelming start for Justin Smoak — has led to renewed suggestions of a reunion. On the other hand, payroll issues could still pose a barrier for a club that is looking up at three AL West competitors in the standings, just as it is in this post. And if this was a fit from the M’s perspective, why did the club seemingly decline to pursue a pre-draft deal (as the Red Sox did with Stephen Drew)?
- Brewers — The only National League club on my list, Milwaukee entered the year with big questions at first base. While Mark Reynolds has been adequate, Lyle Overbay (the left-handed side of that platoon) has struggled. Meanwhile, the front-running Brewers could (and probably should) be looking to upgrade their roster in any way possible to fend off a tough Cardinals squad. This fit would be close to perfect, were it not for the fact that Morales is considered a liability at first.
- Other — Why limit ourselves? There are other teams that could potentially benefit from Morales, at least in a vacuum, though in each case there may be lesser motivation and greater barriers than in the situations of those teams named above. It would be rather surprising, but perhaps not outside the realm of possibility, for teams such as the Indians, Twins, Pirates, or Padres to enter the mix. Of course, none of the clubs just listed sat closer than seven games out of first (or 3.5 out of the Wild Card) entering today’s action. In some respects, their involvement — or that of unnamed others, if injuries were to intervene — could potentially to depend upon whether Morales looks to sign quickly or instead prefers to let things develop over the summer.