The Blue Jays are making a push for free-agent slugger Kendrys Morales, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). It’s unclear at this time exactly how the pursuit of Morales would impact the team’s talks with incumbent free agents Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, but adding Morales would almost certainly rule out a return for at least one of that pair, if not both.
Morales, 33, got off to a slow start with the Royals this past season but caught absolute fire in June and slashed .300/.362/.550 with 24 homers over his final 98 games (94 starts). Outside of a rough April and May this year, his overall time with the Royals was quite productive, as he provided Kansas City with a .277/.344/.476 batting line over the life of his two-year, $17MM deal there. The Royals, of course, play in a very pitcher-friendly setting as well, so it stands to reason that Morales could see an uptick in his offense by moving to the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and the generally more hitter-friendly American League East. The Blue Jays are also known to be seeking some left-handed bats to balance out their lineup, and the switch-hitting Morales would help them to accomplish that goal.
Earlier this week, the Jays were said to have made some progress in talks with Encarnacion after making a legitimate effort to keep him, though Encarnacion’s agent Paul Kinzer said his client sought a five-year deal and could be worth as much as $25MM per season. Morales, who hit 30 home runs in 2016, would come at a fraction of that price, though he also gets on base less often and does come with less pop in his bat than Encarnacion. The Jays could conceivably fit both onto their roster and push Justin Smoak to a pure bench role (or seek to trade him), though the Jays have a notable need in the outfield corners and signing a pair of designated hitters/first basemen would eat up quite a bit of their available funds without addressing their outfield needs.