Kendrys Morales Rumors
- The Blue Jays are "in the mix" for shortstop Stephen Drew, presumably viewing him as a second base option. Nevertheless, the Red Sox remain the favorites to land him, as they prefer to play Xander Bogaerts at third and appear willing to give Drew multiple years. Boston could dangle an opt-out clause of some kind to sweeten things for Drew, Heyman adds. There was a competing report last night on the Yankees' interest, but Heyman says that the club "seem[s] more interested in Drew than ever" after landing Masahiro Tanaka.
- Toronto, says Heyman, figures to be a major threat to land any of the prominent remaining free agents. As he explained further today, the Jays -- armed with two protected first-round draft picks -- may have made the strategic decision to wait out the market for players that are burdened with draft pick compensation. Likewise, as Heyman wrote today, the Mariners could still figure in on the top of the remaining free agent crop.
- Kendrys Morales is among the players who Heyman says could land with either of those clubs. The Jays like Morales, but presumably would need to deal first baseman/DH Adam Lind to bring him on board. Likewise, the Rangers could potentially be involved, but would likely have to flip Mitch Moreland for a Morales signing to fit. If one of those clubs did land Morales, the Pirates might be a club that could swoop in on the trade market, says Heyman.
- The market for Nelson Cruz is looking thin, Heyman says. Cruz may not want to play in Safeco Field, and other possible landing spots like the Orioles and Rangers are focused on pitching.
- Turning to the mound, Heyman said that Ubaldo Jimenez may now be willing to drop his salary demands and could ultimately land in the three-year, $39MM range. The Blue Jays and Orioles are the most likely clubs to sign Jimenez, according to Heyman, with the O's still concerned about burning a draft pick. Meanwhile, the Indians could still get involved if the price on Jimenez falls even further.
Yesterday, I took a side-by-side look at right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, asking MLBTR readers who they preferred between the prominent early-30s hurlers, as each has seen his free agent stock weighed down by draft pick compensation. Today, let's take a look at another pair of players who are languishing on the free agent market due to their ties to draft pick compensation: Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales.
While Cruz, unlike Morales, is an outfielder by trade, neither is known as a solid defensive player. Rather, each is valued primarily for his bat, and teams/fans can make the case that each is best suited for a DH role at this point in his career (the players and their agents, of course, would strongly disagree).
Cruz, 33, entered the offseason as one of the top right-handed power bats on the open market -- a rare trait among free agents. No remaining free agent, not even Morales, can claim to match Cruz's power. He batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in 2013 in just 109 games (446 plate appearances). However, the reason for the shortened campaign wasn't injury, but rather a 50-game suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis PED scandal. Cruz can argue that he's served his time and state that his violations took place in 2012 (via the L.A. Times' Mike DiGiovanna) as he recovered from a rare illness that caused him to lose roughly 40 pounds, thereby indicating that his 2013 numbers were legitimate. Interested teams don't appear as likely to write off the suspension, however.
Morales comes with his own baggage, though his in the form of injury history. The 30-year-old switch-hitter fractured his leg in 2010 while celebrating a walk-off grand slam and missed the better part of two seasons recovering from that freak accident. Morales has posted solid offensive numbers since returning (.275/.329/.457), but his production hasn't come close to matching that which he showed in 2009-10 (.303/.353/.548 in 203 games) prior to his injury.
Neither player is considered much of a defender, though Morales is limited to first base while Cruz can man a corner outfield spot, even if defensive metrics don't speak highly of his outfield play. Even at his best, Morales' isolated power (slugging minus batting average) from 2009-10 was .246 -- roughly the same as the .241 mark Cruz has averaged over the past six years. However, Morales is a switch-hitter who strikes out far less often and is also three years younger than Cruz. He's also succeeded in pitcher-friendly environments, whereas Cruz's .912 OPS at Rangers Ballpark dwarfs his career road mark of .734.
Clearly, each player has some flaws. Cruz likely offers more power and can be played a more valuable defensive position, but he's older, strikes out more and comes with troubling home/road splits. Morales has yet to prove that he can replicate his monster 2009 season, and he's even more defensively limited than Cruz, as all but 31 of his games last season came as a DH. Either would bolster the majority of Major League lineups, but (assuming both would fit on your team) if you had to choose just one...
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checks in with GMs, players, writers, and scouts to help run down the best coaches in baseball. On his list of bench coaches who are managers in waiting: Brad Mills of the Indians, Torey Luvullo of the Red Sox, Larry Bowa of the Phillies, Tim Flannery of the Giants, and the Brewers' Jerry Narron. More from today's column..
- The Pirates probably won’t go after a pitcher if A.J. Burnett retires. Right now, Pittsburgh is looking for a full-time first baseman and would use the money that would have gone to the veteran toward that end. Cafardo also notes that the Orioles could be a "wild card" in the situation since Burnett lives in Baltimore.
- While the bids of the other teams are still unknown, one GM threw out the following figures in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes: Yankees $155MM, Cubs $120MM, Diamondbacks $120MM, Dodgers $119MM, White Sox $100MM, Astros $100MM.
- The Diamondbacks were head over heels for Tanaka, but the fact they weren’t on one of the coasts and they were in a smaller media market worked against them.
- Scott Boras doesn't represent David Ortiz, but he tells Cafardo that he feels for them. Boras sees some similarities between the Red Sox star and his own client Kendrys Morales. Morales is seen by most clubs as a DH rather than a first baseman which is hurting his value. Boras argues that Ortiz is the featured power hitter in Boston's lineup as a DH and believes that Morales can also provide value in that role.
- There had been some talk that Daisuke Matsuzaka might go back to Japan to pitch, but the possibility of breaking into the Mets’ rotation with Matt Harvey out intrigued Matsuzaka enough to fight for a spot.
- The Giants have been through a lot with Pablo Sandoval and even if he has a good season, this could be Pablo Sandoval's last in San Francisco. Sandoval will be a free agent following the 2014 season.
Here's the latest out of the AL East:
- The Orioles' signing of Delmon Young almost certainly rules out Kendrys Morales as an option for the club's DH job, Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore reports. The right-handed Young and lefty Henry Urrutia appear likely to form a platoon at the position.
- Signing Masahiro Tanaka would almost certianly push the Yankees beyond the $189MM luxury tax threshold now that they've agreed to terms with their arbitration-eligible players, David Waldstein of The New York Times notes.
- Red Sox scout Gary Hughes prefers players with multi-sport backgrounds, Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com writes in a profile on the industry veteran. Hughes drafted Delino DeShields as the Expos' scouting director in the first round of the 1987 draft.
In his latest column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe revealed that he is part of a BBWAA committee that will explore the Hall of Fame voting process and discuss what changes (if any) need to be made. Some of the issues likely to be addressed by the committee is whether to allow voters to name more than 10 players on their ballots, whether or not long-time broadcasters or statistical analysis-centric writers should be given a say in HOF voting.
Here's the latest hot stove news from Cafardo...
- Two new teams have joined the hunt for Bronson Arroyo. At least one of his suitors is moving closer to giving Arroyo the third contract year he's looking for, though that third year could come in the form of a vesting option. Cafardo isn't sure if the Twins were that mystery team, though they've been interested in Arroyo all winter. He also cites the Yankees and Phillies as interested parties, as those two clubs join the likes of the Orioles, Mets and Pirates as those linked to the veteran righty this winter. Cafardo reported last month that Arroyo has received two-year contract offers from four different teams.
- Free agent Lyle Overbay is an option for both the Astros and Brewers at first base. Milwaukee is also still considering signing Michael Young for first, or trading for Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
- Agent Scott Boras says “there are five or six teams who I have actively talked to concerning Stephen [Drew],” including the Red Sox. As you might expect, Boras denied that Drew's market is in any way limited, noting that Drew doesn't have a new contract yet since "free agency is a long process. It just doesn’t end at Christmas. It’s a January, February, and even a March process."
- Boras "has a tremendous stake in the Red Sox’ present and future," Cafardo writes, noting that the agent represents not just Drew, but also top youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Deven Marrero.
- "The silence on [Kendrys] Morales is deafening," as teams are reluctant to give up a first round draft pick as compensation for the slugger. At least one team said they're leery about spending significant money for a DH, though Boras, Morales' agent, counters by noting the impact that David Ortiz has had on the Red Sox and also noting that his client can play first base.
- Johnny Damon has stayed in shape and would be willing to resume his career. The 40-year-old hinted at retirement if he couldn't find a contract last offseason and indeed Damon ended up sitting out the 2013. Damon is also a Boras client, and the agent tells Cafardo that Damon has yet to contact him about officially retiring.
- Manny Ramirez wants to continue his career, his hitting coach David Segui predicts, though Segui hasn't spoken to Ramirez in over two months. “Manny will always be able to hit,” Segui said. “He loves to play, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s still looking for something.” Ramirez's agent, Barry Praver, said in November that his client looking for a return to the Majors. Ramirez, 41, last played with the bigs with the Rays in 2011 before being suspended for PED use. Over the last two years, Ramirez spent some time with the Athletics' and Rangers' Triple-A affiliates and also played in Taiwan.
- A National League GM predicts that one of Masahiro Tanaka's many suitors will "come in and blow everyone away. There’s going to be a dance where everyone is in the same boat and then there will be a team that breaks the bank for him.”
New TV deals have made baseball richer than ever, and teams are passing on some of those riches to free agents. $240MM for Robinson Cano. $153MM for Jacoby Ellsbury. Possibly over $100MM for Masahiro Tanaka. Heck, $35MM for Tim Lincecum. $32MM for Jason Vargas. But it appears not everyone has been invited to the party. Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales seem to be on the outside looking in.
As a free agent, Cruz has four problems. First, he's no help defensively -- he's below-average even when compared to other right fielders, posting negative UZR numbers in all of the past three seasons. Second, he's 33 and projects to age badly, as an offensively-minded player who doesn't actually hit all that well. Third, his ties to the Biogenesis scandal might raise questions about his immediate future. And fourth, the team that signs him will have to forfeit a draft pick.
There have been indications that Cruz wants a four-year, $75MM contract. That doesn't appear to be in the cards now -- it's difficult to land huge deals this late in the offseason, and one report from December suggested that Cruz was willing to accept a three-year deal from the Rangers.
But one win above replacement is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $6MM or $7MM on the open market, so for Cruz to justify even the three-year, $39MM deal MLBTR projected he would get, he would have to produce about six wins over the life of the deal, even before considering the draft pick.
Even 6 WAR seems like an optimistic projection over the next three years. Cruz has produced WAR figures of 1.3, 1.1 and 1.5 the past three seasons. Even a three-year deal for Cruz looks unlikely at this point, and he may only get one if a team gets desperate, or determines that the escalating price of free agents and Cruz's counting stats make him worth that kind of money.
Morales is even more defensively limited than Cruz, having played 28 games in the field in 2012 and 31 in 2013 in the aftermath of significant injury troubles that caused him to miss the entire 2011 season. This far removed from any serious injury, he might be able to handle more time in the field than that, but that's mostly a matter of speculation at this point.
On top of that, there's the matter of the qualifying offer. By declining it, Morales rejected a one-year, $14.1MM deal, despite the fact that he was arguably worth less than that last season, producing 1.2 WAR. Even leaving aside the draft pick, it would be ambitious for Morales to use an amount more than $14.1MM per season as a starting point for negotiations on a multi-year contract, or even on a one-year contract. Accepting the qualifying offer might have been a better path for him.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports recently wrote about the qualifying offer system "squeezing" certain free agents, and it is, as in the case of Kyle Lohse last year and Stephen Drew this year. But it's worth mentioning that, in the past two offseasons, no one has actually accepted a qualifying offer yet. Perhaps certain types of players, like Morales, should consider accepting qualifying offers if they receive them. A bigger problem than getting "squeezed" may turn out to be that the expectations of some free agents are out of step with the market. Morales is arguably not worth $14.1MM per season to begin with.
Then add in the draft pick. Unless Cruz or Morales re-sign with their old teams, the teams that sign them will have to give up a draft pick apiece, probably in the last two-thirds of the first round or shortly thereafter. A recent study found that the Nos. 16-30 picks in the June draft have surplus values of a little over $7MM. For players like Robinson Cano or Jacoby Ellsbury, whose value dwarfs the value of the pick, the qualifying offer is not a significant concern. But for a player like Morales, whose value is not so much greater than that of the draft pick anyway, this is a big problem.
A further issue for Cruz and Morales is the lack of teams available to sign them. Those problems were magnified when the Mariners, who like all-bat players more than most other clubs, acquired Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Now there are few fits for Cruz, and even fewer for Morales. And purely as a practical matter, the market for Morales is limited, because it's not clear whether he can be an everyday player in the National League.
It also might be that, as with the closer market, the market for all-bat players and 30-something sluggers is correcting itself to a degree. A team need look no further than Ryan Howard's five-year, $125MM deal with the Phillies to see why signing an aging slugger of limited athleticism might turn out to be a problem. Or Travis Hafner's four-year, $57MM deal with the Indians, or Albert Pujols' ten-year, $240MM contract with Angels. Sometimes, these sorts of players remain productive through their mid-30s -- who would have thought David Ortiz would age so well? But often they don't, and that's even before considering Cruz and Morales are nowhere near as well-rounded offensively as Pujols or Ortiz.
In this market, the two players most comparable to Cruz and Morales were probably Mike Napoli and Carlos Beltran. Like Cruz and Morales, Napoli and Beltran are both sluggers confined to corner positions, although they're also better offensively than Cruz and Morales are (and Napoli is superior defensively as well). Napoli received two years and $32MM, getting fewer years than we expected, though at a higher average annual value. Beltran got three and $45MM. We projected Beltran would get two years and $30MM, which suggests that the market hasn't hurt every defensively-challenged slugger.
It's pretty late in the game for Cruz and Morales to cash in the way Beltran did, though. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo wrote that, in the wake of the Biogenesis scandal, Cruz might ultimately settle for a one-year deal, hoping to prove himself post-PEDs, and then hit the free-agent market again next year.
It's unclear what he'll find when he gets there. With free-agent salaries exploding, it's easy to imagine a world where teams see Cruz's 27 homers and 76 RBIs, or Morales' 23 and 80, and offer them big-money deals. But that does not appear to be the world in which we live, at least not this offseason. Cruz's and Morales' predicaments may primarily be the results of their individual circumstances (Cruz's Biogenesis ties, a lack of obvious fits for Morales) and not the start of a trend. But it may also be that defensively-challenged sluggers, especially ones with good-but-not-outstanding bats, may have trouble getting their usual slice of the free-agent pie, especially when qualifying offers are also a concern.
It's strange that a top-flight pitching talent would be traded five times, but that's exactly what happened to Curt Schilling, CBS Sports' Dayn Perry points out. Schilling had been traded three times before his career really got going as a 25-year-old with the Phillies in 1992. As one might imagine, the teams that traded Schilling didn't make out very well -- he was dealt with Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker, then with Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch for Glenn Davis, then straight-up for Jason Grimsley. By that time the Phillies traded him, he was very valuable, but the Phillies only got Vicente Padilla and change for him, and when the Diamondbacks dealt him, the only players they got who turned out to have value were Jorge De La Rosa and Brandon Lyon. Here are more notes from around baseball.
- The Royals are interested in free agent DH/1B Kendrys Morales, Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio tweets. The Royals already have a similar player in Billy Butler, but Duquette also notes that signing Morales would give the Royals the chance to trade Butler for pitching. The Royals would have to sacrifice their first-round pick, No. 18 overall, if they were to sign Morales, who declined a qualifying offer.
- Scott Podsednik is interested in continuing his career, Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com writes. The outfielder, who will be 38 in March, hit .302/.322/.352 with eight stolen bases in 216 plate appearances with the Red Sox in 2012. He did not play in 2013.
The rumor mill is slowly beginning to turn again with the end of what MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko calls "baseball's dead zone" -- the period of general inactivity between Christmas and New Year's Day. For Orioles fans, that means a return to clamoring for the club to make some impactful additions to its roster. (Baltimore's most expensive addition to date has been reliever Ryan Webb, who was non-tendered by the Marlins.) But, as Kubatko notes, there are a good number of high-quality players still available on the open market, many of whom have been linked to the O's in some manner. Here's more from the O's:
- The Orioles could be a legitimate landing spot for Kendrys Morales, Kubatko suggests. Baltimore is not concerned with his fielding, and is less hesitant to give up a draft pick than in years past, according to Kubatko.
- One other avenue for landing a bat, of course, is via trade. Kubatko says he has heard "rumblings" that executive VP Dan Duquette is working on a deal that could be nearing the stage of reviewing medicals.
- The O's have not made a sizeable free agent investment to date, though the club figures to be in on several remaining players, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Morales, a starter such as Bronson Arroyo or A.J. Burnett, or a closer like Fernando Rodney remain realistic possibilities to land in Baltimore. Yet it remains fairly likely that the club will not ultimately add any of the better players left on the open market, Connolly opines.
- Otherwise, Duquette could focus on addressing the team's own players. J.J. Hardy is the most likely current player to land an extension in Connolly's estimation.
Agent Scott Boras is working to sell the Mets on two notable free agent clients, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Both players are facing uncertain markets at this stage of the offseason with many left scratching their heads over where Morales could land.
For their part, the Mets appear to have little or no interest in Morales and plan to go with Lucas Duda at first base if they move Ike Davis (link). Duda has also seen his name pop up in trade rumors, but not with the same frequency of Davis and their recent preference has been leaning towards rolling with Duda and dealing Davis. It seems unlikely that the cost-conscious Mets would scrap that plan to relegate Duda to the bench so that they can pay significant money for Morales.
Drew would be a strong fit for the Mets, but money is once again an issue after the signings of Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Chris Young set the Mets back $87.5MM. Drew, ranked No. 14 on Tim Dierkes' top 50 list at the outset of the offseason, seems destined for a return to the Red Sox, but Boras has a long, impressive track record of finding lucrative deals from improbable suitors for his clients.
The signing of Omar Infante and Jason Vargas took up the money the Royals had earmarked to re-sign Ervin Santana, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links), and thus with the club at its payroll limit, there is only a "remote" chance of K.C. bringing Santana back on even a one-year deal at a bargain price. The Tigers, Diamondbacks and Mariners are a few of the teams that have been linked to Santana this offseason, though we probably won't know the full extent of his market (and the market for other top free agent starters) until Masahiro Tanaka's situation has been settled.
Here's some more from around baseball...
- Jeff Karstens' agent Damon Lapa tells MLBTR's Zach Links that he expects at least a dozen clubs to be in attendance for Karstens' upcoming showcase. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Karstens will throw in January and Lapa indicated to MLBTR that he'll be auditioning in the "mid-to-late" portion of next month. Lapa won't say what kind of deal he's seeking for his client but he did say that the 31-year-old is "100% healthy."
- The Giants checked in on Mark Mulder “but the short version is he’s looking for more than we could provide, including a Major League contract,” GM Brian Sabean told reporters, including CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly. Mulder is attempting a comeback and threw for three teams last month.
- Athletics owner Lew Wolff told John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group that the A's ownership group hasn't been approached by any interested buyers and Wolff reiterated that the team isn't for sale. Wolff also said he didn't have any interest in a new ballpark proposal by the city of Oakland that would see a stadium constructed at the Howard Terminal waterfront site.
- The Cardinals have finished their major offseason work, GM John Mozeliak told reporters (including MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch). The team will now look to add minor league depth and are prepared to be "opportunistic" if other ways of improving the roster present themselves, Mozeliak said.
- Scott Boras will face a challenge in finding a big contract for Kendrys Morales considering the slugger's seemingly limited market, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi writes.
- The Astros probably aren't done making moves and will look for some bargains in January and February, but GM Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that he would already be satisfied with taking his current roster into Spring Training. Luhnow also commented on his team's recent acquisitions of Jesus Guzman and Collin McHugh, though he didn't comment on rumors tying Houston to Shin-Soo Choo.
- "The White Sox have quietly had a terrific offseason," ESPN.com's David Schoenfeld writes, praising GM Rick Hahn for adding the likes of Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson for what Schoenfeld feels were expendable pieces in Addison Reed and Hector Santiago.