Kendrys Morales career has been one that has been interesting to follow. Obviously, during his years in Anaheim it was near-impossible to root for him. That stated, on the surface alone, a guy with a body that doesn’t look like the paradigm for a professional athlete is always at the least entertaining.
Morales primarily known for having broken his leg celebrating a walk-off homerun. Morales is secondarily known as a guy who knows his way around a homerun or 99 (as of this writing, not including the postseason). Tertiarily, around these parts, Morales is known as a guy who isn’t a special defender – not even for a first baseman – but that can handle himself at the position well enough that if a team didn’t have a good defensive first baseman, he’d be able to handle the position defensively provided neither his bat nor his body disintegrated upon his name being penciled into the lineup.
The reason that is important is because Morales has two things working against him in terms of the quick-and-dirty words of WAR and wRC+ – two metrics commonly used to determine hitter/fielder value – as a member of the Mariners and as a prior member of the Angels.
The Mariners acquired Morales for Jason Vargas largely on the pretense that the Angels, who were coming off a season in which they’d signed Albert Pujols and allowed Mark Trumbo to beat the fuck out of anything he could get his bat on. Morales was expendable, and the Mariners needed a goddamned bat. Kendrys Morales owns bats. He owns multiple bats, and he’s pretty good at using them – particularly when he’s in the left-handed batters box.
For his part, Morales has been fine. He’s posted a 118 wRC+ to this point in 2013. He has played all but 28 of his games at designated hitter. He’s yielded most of the first base opportunities to Justin Smoak, who is maybe an average baseball player now. Morales has lost value playing DH most the time. He’s an average-to-above-average first baseman, and has seen his value adjusted for the fact that he’s played DH most of the season, partially responsible for his modest 1.2 WAR output.
Morales has also – and quite vexingly – been used in a slight reverse platoon. The average hitter has seen about 29 percent of his plate appearances against lefties. The Mariners have experienced an above average 34.2 percent of their plate appearances against lefties. Morales has faced 36.6 percent lefties.
You may remember that for a substantial portion of this season the Mariners had both Michael Morse and Jesus Montero on the roster. During a lot of that time they had Jason Bay on the roster. Now they have none of those guys on the roster, but most of the time they had a lot of good reasons to not bat Kendrys Morales a disproportionate amount of his plate appearances against lefties.
Is any of this to say that the Mariners misusing Morales was the difference between him being a roughly-average first baseman and an elite one? Absolutely not. Did I just break a perosnal rule of mine by aasking a question and answering it without at least buffering them with a single goddamned sentence? I sure did.
Kendrys Morales is average-ish. He’s not great. He’s on the fringe of good. And the Mariners are faced with the enviable task of having to create a functional cost-benefit analysis of offering Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer. On one hand, there’s a chance that Morales is not going to be worth the roughly $14 million that the qualifying offer is expected to be worth on a one year contract. On the other hand, since they went from a team with a glut of platoon DHs to a team with Morales, Smoak, and the soon-to-be-ghost-of-Raul-Ibanez, Morales would fill an empty spot if he accepted the qualifying offer, if not an overriding need.
Of course, Scott Boras is Morales’ agent. Boras is notoriously out of the most money he can get for a client, and has already begun to make a case that Morales is in fact a star first baseman that has simply seen his production muffled by the unfriendly home confines in Anaheim and Seattle. Scott Boras does this kind of thing just about every offseason. Often times he’s successful, and sometimes he’s not. Sometimes that gets him fired.
Were Morales represented by perhaps any other agent, one would have to consider it something of an even money proposition relative to whether or not Morales would simply accept a qualifying offer. With Boras in his camp, it seems inconceivable that Morales wouldn’t accept a qualifying offer, and for this reason, the Mariners should take the moderate risk (something like $3-5 million of maximum value deficit based on what is likely to be Morales’ projected 2014 production), and attempt to steal a draft pick from any team that overvalues homeruns and batting average.