FEB.20: Morales’ deal pays him $1.85MM with an additional $850K available via incentives, if he is on the Major League roster, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Morales posted a 5.37 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 1.54 K/BB rate over 142 1/3 innings with the Rockies last season. Ostensibly the team’s emergency starter, Morales ended up making 22 starts (out of 37 overall appearances) thanks to all of the injuries in Colorado’s rotation. This unexpected amount of action was surely a big reason for Morales’ inflated numbers, especially the additional exposure to right-handed hitters — righty bats had a .923 OPS against Morales last season, while left-handed hitters managed only a .699 OPS.
Given his large career splits (.624 OPS vs LHB, .844 OPS vs. RHB), Morales could be a valuable bullpen weapon if he’s limited to facing mostly lefty bats. If he makes the Royals’ roster, pitching at Kauffman Stadium could also be a boon for Morales after spending his entire career at hitter-friendly Coors Field and Fenway Park. Morales has only a 40% ground ball rate over his career and his HR/FB rate ballooned to a career-high 15.9% last season.
While the Royals’ bullpen is arguably the best in the game overall, their relief corps is short on left-handed options other than Tim Collins. Top prospect Brandon Finnegan worked out of the bullpen during Kansas City’s playoff run last year, though the club would obviously prefer to keep him as a starter for the sake of his long-term development. Of the other southpaw relievers in camp (including Brian Flynn and Joe Paterson), Morales has the most experience and he could even take the odd start if the Royals were in a pinch. K.C. had also recently shown interest in veteran relievers Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves.