Does Kendrys Morales make sense for the Baltimore Orioles?
By Scott Cahoon
Sep 26, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales (21) hits a single against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette has proven time and time again that he is an excellent bargain hunter.
He picked Nate McLouth, a 1 and 1.6 WAR player in 2012 and 2013, off the scrap heap in 2012 following two of the worst years of his career with only a minor league contract.
He grabbed Delmon Young for $1 million amid locker room concerns and a mediocre .260/.307/.407 season and Young revitalized his career, hitting .302/.337/.442 in 2014.
He got 2014 home run champ Nelson Cruz for a bottom-scraping $8 million (and a later-recouped first-round draft pick) last year after he was coming off of a PED suspension.
A common thread between all three players: all were previously very successful major league players who were devalued coming off of a bad year. This year, who fits that profile better than free agent DH/1B Kendrys Morales?
Morales was crippled by a late start to his 2014 as he refused the qualifying offer extended to him by the Seattle Mariners. Teams were reluctant to surrender a first-round draft pick and sign Morales to a requested multi-year deal, so Morales’ free agency stretched past spring training and into the regular season.
Morales ended up signing with the Minnesota Twins in June for a prorated one-year, $12 million contract, receiving less than he would have if he accepted his qualifying offer. After hitting .234/.259/.325. over 39 games with the Twins, he was traded to Seattle, where he finished the year batting a career-worst .218/.274/.338.
Over the course of his career, Morales’ .271/.324/.460 slash line tells a different story. From 2009 to 2013, Morales didn’t have an OPS below .785. He eclipsed 22 home runs in every season (three) in which he appeared in more than 130 games.
Without a surrendered draft pick attached to his hire and a smaller, shorter-term commitment expected from interested teams, the market could be prime for the Orioles to bring the once-revered 31-year-old hitter to Baltimore. CBS Sports reporter Jon Heyman projects Morales to receive a two-year, $18 million salary this offseason, which fits with the Orioles’ reluctance to issue four-year contracts.
One thing working in the Orioles’, or any other potential suitor’s advantage, is that the circumstances surrounding Morales 2013 won’t repeat themselves this year, making a rebound season seem likely. If Morales reverts to his career averages, he could be a valuable piece as the Orioles look to replace the production of Cruz in their lineup.
If the Orioles are keen to rekindle last year’s interest in Morales, the O’s may have to get creative to fit him in the lineup. Morales would be the third player on the roster that primarily serves as a first baseman and designated hitter along with Steve Pearce and Chris Davis. Pearce, Davis, or both in interleague games at National League ballparks, may have to move to a suddenly vacant corner outfield spot to make room for Morales.
Despite the defensive hit the Orioles may take pushing Pearce or Davis to the outfield more often, signing Morales seems like its right in the Orioles’ and Dan Duquette’s wheelhouse. With the proven success the team has had with similarly situated players, look for the Orioles to bolster their lineup with the switch-hitting veteran and don’t be surprised if Morales turns out to be yet another steal by savvy Orioles’ leadership.