TODAY: The deal ships $1MM in international bonus availability to Toronto, per Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (via Twitter).
YESTERDAY, 7:40pm: Slusser reports that the Jays are covering more than $10MM of the $12MM remaining on Morales’ contract.
7:06pm: The two teams have announced the trade. Toronto is sending Morales and cash to Oakland in exchange for minor league infielder Jesus Lopez and international bonus money. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Oakland transferred right-hander Jharel Cotton to the 60-day injured list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
7:02pm: In a surprising move, the Blue Jays have traded designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Athletics, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (via Twitter). The 35-year-old Morales is earning $12MM in the final season of a three-year, $33MM contract with the Jays, so presumably Toronto is providing substantial financial relief in the deal.
Oakland recently lost first baseman Matt Olson when the slugger underwent a hamate excision procedure on his right hand. Olson suffered the injury in the second game of the Athletics’ two-game set against the Mariners in Tokyo. With Khris Davis locked in as the primary designated hitter in Oakland, it seems likely that Morales will play first base while Olson is sidelined. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Olson will be out anywhere from six to eight weeks.
Morales won’t match Olson’s offensive output or especially his glovework, but the veteran switch-hitter is coming off a solid 2018 rebound campaign in which he batted .249/.331/.439 (112 OPS+) with 21 homers. His recent work at first base has been extremely limited, as he’s logged just 30 games at the position over the past two seasons. The A’s also have Mark Canha and Jurickson Profar (who played 24 games at first base last year in Texas) as alternative options at first base should the need arise.
The addition of Morales will also help to balance out a righty-heavy Athletics roster. Prior to the trade for Morales, switch-hitters Profar and Robbie Grossman were the only two players on the active roster capable of hitting left-handed. A career .264/.328/.468 hitter against right-handed pitchers, Morales isn’t exactly a standout but will present a sound platoon partner for the right-handed-hitting Canha.
For the Blue Jays, the move creates some much-needed roster flexibility. Teoscar Hernandez can now receive semi-regular at-bats in the DH slot, with Billy McKinney, Kevin Pillar and Randal Grichuk lining up around the outfield. The Jays can also rotate some other regulars through the DH slot, and the trade of Morales could even create a path to the Majors 24-year-old first baseman Rowdy Tellez on the heels of a .280/.308/.600 showing in Spring Training.
The return for the Jays, as one would expect when dealing a soon-to-be 36-year-old DH in the final season of an undesirable contract, is minimal. The 21-year-old Lopez spent the 2018 season with Class-A Beloit, where he hit .239/.293/.402 with 10 homers, 15 doubles and a couple of triples in 326 plate appearances. He spent time at third base (587 innings), shortstop (65 innings) and second base (53 innings). Lopez wasn’t ranked among the Athletics’ top prospects. The amount of international money picked up by Toronto in tonight’s deal isn’t clear, though international funds must be traded in blocks of at least $250K.