Kendrys Morales Rumors
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette confirmed to Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (on Twitter) that he has interest in Raul Ibanez and Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, but says that he won't be in the mix for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka or Kendrys Morales. The O's will be out looking for a left-handed hitting left fielder or DH as well as pitching (link). Here's more out of Baltimore..
- The Orioles checked on the availability of Ethier and fellow Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but there were issues with the amount of salary that the Dodgers were willing to absorb, an industry source told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
- While he didn't shut the door on re-signing second baseman Brian Roberts, Duquette told reporters, including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, he is pleased with his options at the position, especially Ryan Flaherty.
- The O's will announce their signing of Ryan Webb today, but they're still in the hunt for a closer, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). Webb agreed to a two-year, $4.5MM deal with Baltimore last week.
ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is out with a Winter Meetings preview, noting that the frenzy of signings and trades this week threatens to overshadow an event that's traditionally one of the hot stove's busiest periods. Twenty teams either swapped a player or agreed to terms with a free agent between Monday afternoon and Tuesday night, according to ESPN's count. "I don't ever remember a day like Tuesday ever," an AL official commented. "Not just [during] the week before the Winter Meetings. Ever." Nevertheless, with several top names remaining unsigned and rumors of a David Price trade hanging in the air, Stark notes that there's plenty of hot stove left. Here's a run-through of his Winter Meetings preview, which includes a survey of 17 big league executives (conducted before the Carlos Beltran and Robinson Cano signings):
- Some believe Scott Boras will bide his time with Shin-Soo Choo following how quickly a deal for Jacoby Ellsbury came together with the Yankees, but there's another group that believes the superagent wants to show new rival Jay Z that he can be decisive. Around half of execs polled said they think Choo could sign during the Winter Meetings, or immediately afterward. All speculated he'll land with either the Rangers, Mariners or Tigers, though Detroit is indicating they're not involved.
- The market for starting pitching has been slow to develop because of uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka, as well as slow-developing rumors for Price and Jeff Samardzija, leaving Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the board. Officials polled varied widely in their predictions for when the two will sign, though many see Garza heading to the Yankees or the Orioles. Draft pick compensation is an issue with Jimenez, who doesn't have a consistent track record.
- Kendrys Morales isn't expected to sign soon, with many NL clubs passing on the slugger because there's a perception that he'll need to DH. "I think he has all the makings of this year's Kyle Lohse," one exec commented. Draft pick compensation is also an issue. "You should never forget how many teams don't want to give up those draft picks," one exec commented.
- Samardzija was seen as the player most likely to be traded during the Meetings among players who are still on the market, though his three votes only slightly surpassed Mark Trumbo's two. Many believe, however, that Samardzija could remain a Cub until later in the winter, or even until the summer trade deadline in July. One exec said he thinks the Angels were more willing to move Trumbo a month ago than they are currently.
- Carlos Beltran was by far seen as the most likely player to sign during the Meetings, though as that's already happened, the title is now held by Choo.
- While the Dodgers, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Braves, Diamondbacks and Padres all appear to be interested in trading for Price, the group of teams that are actually able to consummate a deal could be much smaller. Rays GM Andrew Friedman appears to be taking his time allowing the market to develop. "Andrew is looking to make the Herschel Walker trade," a source tells Stark, referring to the 1989 NFL trade that involved 18 players and draft picks.
Here's the latest from the Bronx...
- The Yankees are interested in Kendrys Morales, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. Despite Morales' history of leg injuries, Yankees scouts feel the switch-hitter could add first base depth behing Mark Teixeira in addition to taking regular DH at-bats. I'm not sure Morales is a good fit given that the Yankees need to keep their DH spot relatively open for their other veterans on the roster. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted a two-year, $28MM deal for Morales, and given the draft pick compensation tied to him, I'd guess the Yankees would only make a move if they're unable to land other free targets.
- Negotiations with Robinson Cano are expected to begin soon, Hal Steinbrenner told reporters (including Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger) during the GM Meetings. “I’m sure in the next week we’re going to sit down and talk to him. We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics, yet. But it’s the beginning of the process," Steinbrenner said.
- Steinbrenner didn't discuss anything beyond the 2014 season with Derek Jeter during the shortstop's recent contract talks. "I don’t know that Derek has thought that far. He’s got a lot of thinking to do just getting to March. You know what I mean? And I think that’s his focus for right now," the managing general partner said. We heard earlier this week that Steinbrenner himself who negotiated Jeter's one-year, $12MM deal for 2014.
- Also during the talk, Steinbrenner discussed such topics as the Alex Rodriguez situation and the Yankees' recent struggles in player development.
- The Yankees don't have have many prime trade chips, but Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog puts Ivan Nova as the best chip on the team's roster. It seems unlikely that New York would consider trading Nova, however, as the Yankees need both starters and relatively inexpensive players under team control.
The Astros are receiving significant interest in catcher Jason Castro, and interest could pick up once big free agents like Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia go off the board, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Their interest in trading Castro isn't known, but Houston is said to like catching prospect Max Stassi very much. Heyman sees the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Angels, Rockies, and Twins as teams that could possibly have interest if Castro is on the block. Here's more out of the AL West..
- The Mariners are more immersed in the Carlos Beltran-Jhonny Peralta-Kendrys Morales market than Jacoby Ellsbury at this point, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Brian McTaggart of MLB.com (Twitter link) doesn't see the Astros trading Castro. Even though Castro is starting to make some money - the catcher is projected to earn $2.2MM in arbitration this year - they're not deep enough at catcher to lose him and the club needs to take a step forward.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com examined Carlos Ruiz as a possible fit for the Rangers if they don't land top catcher Brian McCann.
- More from Durrett, who believes that Jurickson Profar's trade value hasn't decreased much despite a down year in 2013.
- The Angels' best bet for acquiring quality pitching via trade would be to part with Mark Trumbo, even though losing him would hurt, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
13 free agents received qualifying offers a week ago, and I think they are all likely to decline by today's 4pm central time deadline. If these players sign Major League deals elsewhere, their old teams stand to gain a draft pick in each instance. The latest:
- Curtis Granderson is "100 percent" turning down the Yankees' qualifying offer, a person involved in the situation tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
- Kendrys Morales will turn down the Mariners' QO, people familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- As expected, both Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew will allow the 5pm deadline to pass without accepting qualifying offers from the Red Sox, a baseball source tells Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (on Twitter).
- After an MRI on his hips showed no signs of further deterioration, Mike Napoli has decided to decline the Red Sox's qualifying offer, an industry source tells Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- Starting pitcher Ervin Santana declined the Royals' qualifying offer, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Catcher Brian McCann will decline his qualifying offer from the Braves today, tweets MLB.com's Mark Bowman. This was an easy choice for McCann, who has a good chance at a five-year contract.
- Right fielder Nelson Cruz informed the Rangers he will decline his qualifying offer, tweeted Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram earlier today.
- You can also keep track of all the qualifying offer decisions using MLBTR's free agent tracker.
Agent Scott Boras joined ESPN's Keith Law on his latest Behind the Dish podcast. A few highlights:
- Jacoby Ellsbury has "illustrated that he's a highly durable athlete," according to Boras. The agent explained that people running into Ellsbury, which caused his two major injuries, has nothing to do with his durability. Ellsbury is "a game-changer for a lot of franchises," as the importance of leadoff hitters has increased as power has declined. Boras says a player of Ellsbury's caliber is typically locked up by his team and does not reach free agency. I projected a seven-year, $150MM contract for Ellsbury in my recent free agent profile.
- Shin-Soo Choo is a "premium defensive outfielder at the corners," says Boras, which is further proven by him being able to handle center field for a season with the Reds.
- Seven or eight teams could "change the dynamic of the production of their infield" with shortstop Stephen Drew, in the opinion of Boras.
- Kendrys Morales' metrics at first base are above average, Boras told Law, adding, "He clearly is a good first baseman." Boras feels that pundits don't appreciate the rarity of a switch-hitter with a middle of the order bat, in this case. Morales is "the only other one really than Cano who you can say has the ability to be a run producer in the middle of the lineup" in this free agent market, says Boras, an assessment with which the agents for Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, and Nelson Cruz might disagree.
The decision to extend a qualifying offer to Morales was met with surprise when it was first reported last month, but the report that Morales would decline the offer was questioned even more. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted that Morales would end up back with the Mariners on a two-year, $28MM contract in his free agent profile of the Cuban-born slugger last month.
Morales, 30, batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers for the Mariners this season -- numbers that were a near-mirror image of his .273/.320/.467 batting line and 22 homers for the Angels in 2012.
Should Morales reject the $14.1MM offer and sign elsewhere, the Mariners would receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round. However, as a good but not elite bat who is primarily limited to designated hitter, I feel that the qualifying offer is particularly damaging to Morales. He and agent Scott Boras have a week to make an official decision on the offer.
Kendrys Morales is one of the 15 best hitters on the free agent market this offseason. And among proven middle of the order hitters on the market, only Morales can boast of playing the 2014 season at age 30.
Offensively, Morales doesn't stand out in any one aspect, but he doesn't have any major holes either. He owns a .280 career average, .275 over the last two seasons. He doesn't strike out a ton like Mike Napoli, and he's shown acceptable power unlike Justin Morneau or James Loney have in recent years. Morales tied Napoli with 23 home runs in 2013, sixth among all free agents. His power has been consistent since becoming a full-timer in '09, with a slugging percentage that never dipped below .449 and isolated power of .171 or better.
A switch-hitter, Morales doesn't have an extreme platoon split. Over the last two years, he's hitting .269/.338/.448 against lefties and .278/.326/.460 against righties.
Morales has one particularly impressive offensive season to his credit, as he hit .306/.355/.569 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in in 2009 and finished fifth in the AL MVP voting.
Morales has youth on his side, having turned 30 in June. He's younger than Napoli, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, Marlon Byrd, Shin-Soo Choo, and Nelson Cruz. The only younger free agent bat is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is viewed as a leadoff hitter and isn't in the same price bracket.
Morales has a .275/.329/.457 batting line since 2012. His OBP is slightly below-average for a first baseman or designated hitter, and his power production has been about average. Agent Scott Boras blames the Mariners' home park, telling Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times in August, "A 20-homer season in Safeco is like a 30-homer season somewhere else." I'm not sure if Boras was literally suggesting Morales' park cost him ten home runs. I spoke to Dave Cameron of FanGraphs and U.S.S. Mariner, who suggested it would be more likely for the park to have cost Morales one or two home runs in 2013, especially with the fences having been moved in this year. Furthermore, Morales actually hit for more power at Safeco than on the road in 2013.
Morales provides no value defensively and is likely limited to American League teams with an opening at the designated hitter spot. He played 28 games at first base in 2012 and 31 in 2013, serving as DH the majority of the time. An inability to play the field regularly sets the bar extra-high for offense, which is part of the reason Morales was valued by FanGraphs at just 1.7 wins above replacement in 2012 and 1.2 in 2013. Among free agent position players this year, Morales' WAR isn't in the top 20. Fangraphs' WAR pegs him as a $6-8MM player, yet the price tag will surely be higher.
Morales is one of the slowest players in baseball. He cost the Mariners 5.5 runs on the basepaths in 2013, sixth-worst in the game. Even in his standout 2009 season, he was the worst baserunner in MLB.
Morales' career took a major turn on May 29th, 2010. He hit a walkoff grand slam against Brandon League, fracturing his ankle and lower tibia in his celebratory leap onto home plate. His recovery required two surgical procedures, and he didn't return until the beginning of the 2012 season. Morales seems fully recovered now, having played 134 games in 2012 and 156 in 2013.
In early October, Mariners GM Jack Zdurenick said his team will definitely make Morales a qualifying offer, which is worth $14.1MM for 2014. A week later, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote that Morales will turn down that offer.
Morales played for the Cuban national team as a teenager, and successfully defected in 2004 at age 20 after more than ten failed attempts. He drew interest from teams such as the Mets, Marlins, Indians, and Rangers before landing with the Angels. Morales told Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today in 2009 he found the culture shock jarring, but became used to the lifestyle change. In that article, which I should stress is four years old, Ortiz notes that Morales was hesitant to speak English and had limited but friendly communication with non-Spanish-speaking teammates. More recently, I've heard that Morales leads by example in the clubhouse and gets along well with teammates. Ortiz also mentions in the article that Morales is an only child who lost his father early in his life. He is married and has three children.
The Mariners expressed interest in extending Morales before the trade deadline, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who says the team "balked at contract figures suggested by Boras and never made the player a formal offer." "I would love to bring Kendrys back," Zduriencik said on ESPN 710's Bob and Groz show in early October. Since the Mariners already consider Morales a $14MM player, they seem the team most likely to meet Boras' demands.
As a good player and not a great one, Morales' market could be hurt greatly with the draft pick cost attached. Team like the Rangers and Orioles won't be keen on losing their first-round pick to sign Morales, while a club like the Twins may not even want to surrender their second-rounder. Perhaps Boras will attempt to piggyback onto another free agent, aiming for a team that already lost a draft pick, as happened with Boras, the Indians, and Michael Bourn last winter.
Since pure designated hitters are rare in general, Morales' competition in terms of bat-only players is light, with names like Ibanez and Luke Scott. If we include first basemen, players such as Mike Napoli, Morneau, Loney, Mike Morse, and Corey Hart enter the mix.
Boras will likely set out seeking a four-year contract for Morales, aiming high as a starting point. Contracts given to Cody Ross, Michael Cuddyer, and Josh Willingham the past two offseasons lend credence to the possibility of a three-year contract for Morales, though none of them were as far down the path toward full-blown DH nor did the signing teams lose a draft pick. The best comparable might be Adam LaRoche, who was tied to draft pick compensation last offseason and was unable to get a third year. Ultimately I think Morales will beat LaRoche's contract and sign a two-year, $28MM deal with a third-year vesting option.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik recently said that the team will "definitely" make a qualifying offer to designated hitter/first baseman Kendrys Morales this winter, and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Morales will likely reject that offer in search of a multi-year deal on the free agent market.
Morales isn't ruling the Mariners out as a potential landing place on a long-term deal, writes Heyman, nor are the Mariners ruling out agreeing to a multi-year pact with Morales. That may still be the most likely outcome, as Morales' defensive limitations and solid but unspectacular stats may not be a package that teams are anxious to surrender a draft pick to acquire. Last winter, Adam LaRoche struggled to find a lengthy deal after being tied to draft pick compensation, and he was coming off a .271/.343/.510, 33-homer season. Morales, in contrast, hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs, though he's three and a half years younger than LaRoche.
The Mariners showed interest in an extension for Morales over the summer, but he and agent Scott Boras had an asking price that was high enough to prevent the team from even extending a formal offer.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels spoke to the media today and already shared some information about his team's plans for Nelson Cruz and Joe Nathan this offseason. Here's some more from Daniels' press conference and other Ranger-related news items...
- Daniels said he will speak to manager Ron Washington about a contract extension this winter (via Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). The GM hasn't yet spoken to upper management about extending Washington's deal but Daniels doesn't want Washington to be a lame duck in the final year of his current contract. It could mirror the situation in January 2012 when Washington was heading into his final year with Texas and signed his current two-year extension.
- The Rangers' 2014 payroll will be "a little below" its $125.3MM figure from last season, Daniels said (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News). The club has around $85MM committed to nine players next season, plus five arbitration-eligible players. Since the club will have at least $31MM worth of free agents coming off the books, Grant notes, the Rangers will still have room to spend.
- The Rangers "certainly have interest" in free agent Kendrys Morales, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports. Since the Mariners plan to extend a qualifying offer to Morales, signing Morales would cost the Rangers their first-round draft pick as compensation.
- Also in Sullivan's piece, he breaks down the Rangers' offseason needs and notes that Jurickson Profar's positional future could play a role in Texas' moves. For instance, the Rangers could experiment with Profar at third base, which would allow Adrian Beltre to save his legs by seeing regular DH at-bats.
- The firing of bench coach Jackie Moore has generated some rumors of Daniels wanting more influence in on-field decisions, but ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett believes that Daniels is simply trying to find the right coaching mix rather than engaging in a power struggle with Washington or Nolan Ryan.