The Blue Jays’ signing of Kendrys Morales became official yesterday, and GM Ross Atkins met with reporters (including Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith) to discuss both Morales and other hot stove-related items…
- Though Morales has almost exclusively been a designated hitter over the last two seasons, Atkins said the veteran could receive a “good deal” of time at first base, or at least some time at first or in the outfield depending on other possible acquisitions. Morales has played 16 games at first and five games as a right fielder since the start of the 2015 season, and he has primarily served as a DH since infamously breaking his ankle celebrating a walkoff homer during the 2010 season. Given that Morales didn’t acquit himself well in his brief stint in the outfield, one would think Toronto would only use him as an emergency right fielder rather than even a part-time option for the position.
- Morales’ signing makes it “slightly less likely” that the Jays will re-sign Edwin Encarnacion, “but it by no means eliminates that possibility,” Atkins said. The Morales signing “doesn’t impact us on Jose [Bautista] in any way,” Atkins noted, as there is less of a positional overlap between Bautista and Morales as there is with Encarnacion. It didn’t seem likely that both free agents would return to Toronto even prior to Morales’ acquisition, though Atkins said that “we still feel that both are realistic for us.”
- Michael Saunders, another internal free agent, is still “squarely” on the Jays’ radar as the club looks to address its outfield situation. “We are going to be aggressive in trying to add one or two pieces to our outfield depending upon what’s available,” Atkins said. “We’re extremely active in trade discussions and free agent discussions…The outfield is certainly a need for us.” With Bautista and Saunders in free agency, the Blue Jays are left with Melvin Upton Jr., Ezequiel Carrera and Dalton Pompey as part-time or bench candidates in the corner outfield slots (plus defensive standout Kevin Pillar presumably continuing in center.)
- International signing Lourdes Gurriel Jr. could also be a candidate for the outfield when he’s ready for the majors, though Atkins said that Gurriel will probably be used at second, third and shortstop as he begins 2017 in the minors. “He’s a very, very good athlete and a lot of the (positional) decision will come down to how we view his athleticism once we get a more objective view of that,” Atkins said.