Kendrys Morales does not want to play for the Seattle Mariners. He showed this in the offseason, when he rejected a three-year contract offer from Jack Zduriencik and company. He showed this again after signing with the Minnesota Twins in June, making statements through an interpreter that “in his heart” he didn’t want to return to Seattle. The Mariners, of course, really wanted Morales back in Seattle, and now it appears they’ve gotten their wish.
Word is out that the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins have completed a trade that will send Morales back to the Pacific Northwest. After all of this – the qualifying offer, the three-year proposal, sitting out two-plus months of the regular season, and finally signing with a non-contender – Morales finds himself back in the situation he so desperately avoided. A free agent at season’s end, playing out his contract in Seattle.
Of course, things aren’t quite the same this time around. Since Morales didn’t spend the entire regular season with one team, he’s not eligible to receive a qualifying offer. Were it not for that offer, he (and Nelson Cruz, and Stephen Drew, and Ervin Santana) would surely have been able to sign attractive multi-year contracts in free agency. Not being attached to compensation will be huge for Morales, even though he’s not guaranteed to be coming off a season any better than the one he had a year ago.
See, there’s the biggest problem with this acquisition: Morales has been horrible this season. 2014 Kendrys Morales: 162 plate appearances, .234/.259/.325, .091 ISO, 57 WRC+, -0.9 WAR. The only current Mariner who’s hit for less power than Morales this year is James Jones. The only current Mariner who’s hit worse overall is Stefen Romero, who, with a 54 wRC+ and -0.9 WAR, has essentially been Kendrys’ equal. Morales has been one of the fifteen-odd worst players in the league this year, and he’s only had since mid-June to accrue all that negative value.
In order to acquire Morales, the Mariners shipped Stephen Pryor to the Twins. Pryor isn’t the same hard-throwing future closer he was before blowing out his arm, and has settled in as a mediocre AAA reliever who throws 90-91. Good luck, Minnesota. But the point is that this was probably fair value – broken young arm for a DH who isn’t hitting at all.
The Mariners now have Corey Hart and Kendrys Morales, who are both aging sluggers having similarly frustrating seasons. They’re both best suited to DH, and neither is hitting at all. If you’ve been watching Hart this year and thinking “man, this guy is hopeless and probably done forever,” then you’re really going to love this new Morales.
Of course, neither Hart nor Morales is likely as bad as they’ve seemed so far. It’s smart, perhaps, to have two of these guys around, because only one of them needs to positively regress in order for the M’s to have found a useful player. The problem with this is that the Mariners only have so many plate appearances to go around, and that Morales and Hart really are both pure DHs. This is a logjam that the Mariners have always wanted to re-create. Consider it re-created.
So welcome back, Kendrys Morales. The Mariners front office has a huge crush on Morales, to the point that they acquired him despite already having essentially the same player performing at the same unacceptably low level. Maybe he catches fire, and this looks like a genius move. Maybe he just sucks at hitting now, and the Mariners waste a roster spot on an expensive player with zero major league skills. The cost to acquire was low, so the real downside here is that the Mariners make him a more prominent piece than he deserves to be. Which, you know.