Kendry Morales

Dave · December 2, 2004 at 1:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

By request, here’s my quick take on the Angels signing of Kendry Morales to a six year major league contract, including a $3 million signing bonus, with incentives that could push the total possible value to $10 million.

It’s a big risk, one I’m not sure is justifiable. Everybody who saw him agrees that he’s got work to do before he’s an impact major league player, and most teams wanted him to start the season in the minors. The signing is essentially equivalent to contracts handed out to the top selections in the amateur draft the past few seasons. By comparison, the Brewers gave Rickie Weeks, a college player drafted #2 overall and believed to be not far from the majors, a 5 year major league contract with $3.6 million signing bonus, $4.8 million guaranteed (including the bonus), and a $5.5 million value if all incentives are reached. The Angels paid Morales comparably to an elite draft choice. Is he that kind of player?

I doubt it. There’s a reason teams just don’t select first baseman that highly in the draft. Not one amateur first baseman was selected last June. Billy Butler, taken #11 overall, will likely end up at first eventually despite being selected as a third baseman, but the fact that a player with his offensive abilities slipped to the eleventh spot speaks to how highly teams value defensive ability in their prospects. If you’re going to be an impact first baseman, you’re going to have to hit an absolute ton, and the hitting tool is by far the hardest to scout. Compound that with the limited information clubs had in regards to Morales compared to a normal prospect, and the ability to project his bat at the major league level is even more difficult. If he doesn’t hit, he’s not going to be worth a darn, and the Angels will be out around $5-6 million. That’s a significant amount of money to any franchise.

Morales may work out and become a solid contributor. But by including incentives that make his total contract worth $10 million, the odds of him being a huge bargain are pretty slim. The best case scenario is that they’ve got a good player making pretty good money. It just doesn’t seem that the reward justifies the significant risk in this signing. I’m glad the M’s didn’t make this kind of commitment to Morales.


25 Responses to “Kendry Morales”

  1. DMZ on December 2nd, 2004 1:35 pm

    On another note, it does speak to something interesting, in that the Angels ownership appears to be willing to spend aggressively to get their hands on Latino players as part of their larger effort to build a larger fan base in the community, one that’s been.. under-courted? by baseball traditionally.

    What will be particularly interesting to me is if the Angels are able to make their commitment into a selling point for reruiting players out of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican — it really could become a sustainable competitive advantage if they can come to some success with it.

  2. msb on December 2nd, 2004 1:35 pm

    the only thing I could see was that the Angels have apparently been following him around since he was 16…

  3. DMZ on December 2nd, 2004 1:38 pm

    Oh, and I wrote about Morales before, if anyone’s interested.

  4. Michael on December 2nd, 2004 1:38 pm

    Derek, nice point in #1. The Mariners don’t sem particularly strong in this dept. and coudl well take a leaf out of the Angels’ book? Apart from overspending on risky 1b picks, of course.

  5. Econ guy on December 2nd, 2004 1:44 pm

    Thanks for the post, I was really curious and I did not know much about him.

  6. Eric on December 2nd, 2004 1:48 pm

    #4 Seems the Ms are trying a similar approach with Japan.

  7. Econ guy on December 2nd, 2004 1:50 pm

    On an off topic comment, just posted that:

    “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Drew is now seeking a five-year, $50 million deal. Braves GM John Schuerholz says that he wants Drew back in right field next year. But the outfielder’s price tag is going to have to drop in order for him to be back in Atlanta in 2005.”

    I am a big Drew fan and I think that he would be an excellent fit with the Mariners. The 5 years that he is asking for is a bit much but I would love to see the M’s sign him up (or at least offer a 3 year deal).

    Dave, with Atlanta not appearing to be a lock to sign Drew, do you think that the M’s will make any serious run at him?

  8. giuseppe on December 2nd, 2004 1:55 pm

    You guys are quick! Thanks.

    I’m wondering, given the M’s creative accounting, if they had done a deal like this for Morales the money would have come from somewhere other than the budget, right? Or is that only for Japanese players?

    Also, could the hiring of a full-time Japanese scout signal that the Mariners are trying to do what Derek suggests Moreno is doing but with Japan? (I know I’m stretching a bit from your original idea Derek. I’m suggesting not that they’re marketing to the HUGE Japanese population in Seattle, but that they’re trying to create a more attractive environment for Japanese players by having more).

    Also, Michael, do the Mariners have as much interest in courting the latino community as the Angels? I think not. Not that it wouldn’t be a good idea, but the Angels have a much better market for that, no? I love what Moreno’s maybe trying to do, but from a purely marketing standpoint it makes more sense in Southern California than the Pacific NW.

    Which explains why Bucky and Sexson and all those other local boys are so popular with the FO and the casual fans…

  9. giuseppe on December 2nd, 2004 1:57 pm

    …oh, and of course, our favorite: Willie ‘Port Orchard’ Bloomquist.

  10. kenshin on December 2nd, 2004 1:57 pm

    ESPN stated that incentives comprised a portion of the Morales contract. Has anyone found the actual monetary breakdown? The contract might not be as much of a reach as it initially appears.

  11. DMZ on December 2nd, 2004 2:03 pm

    I’m wondering, given the M’s creative accounting, if they had done a deal like this for Morales the money would have come from somewhere other than the budget, right? Or is that only for Japanese players?

    From what I understand, the team regards the initial acquisition of an international player not subject to the draft, without previous MLB-affiliated experience as a different expense category. Given that definition, there shouldn’t be any distinction about nationality.

    That said, I never really understood the why or how of that, and that’s my best understanding based on what little surfaced of this accounting oddity.

  12. giuseppe on December 2nd, 2004 2:12 pm

    So, given that we know so little about this “off-shore fund,” would that have only paid for the signing bonus? I’m guessing in the case of Japanese players it would only pay for the posting bid. But for a defector??? It would also pay for purchasing contracts from other foreign teams, but not the contract we give the player?

    Yet another mysteryious baseball budgeting anomaly.

  13. DMZ on December 2nd, 2004 2:13 pm

    Again, no. When they were looking at signing Contreras this came up again, and they said it’d be the same deal — that because they didn’t have to account for it in the same way as normal salary, they’d be able to spend more.

  14. giuseppe on December 2nd, 2004 2:19 pm

    So by “initial acquisition” you meant the whole first contract we hand that player?

    “Again, no,” to which question of mine actually?

    Sorry, to keep harping on this since it doesn’t really matter and we know so little about this made up system that they could change their own rules and we wouldn’t know…but I’m just curious.

  15. Mike on December 2nd, 2004 2:27 pm

    Do we have any reason to take Morales’ stats from Cuba with more than a grain of salt? Could you make a comparison between a minor league level and the Cuban league? It doesn’t seem to me that enough players have come from the Cuba to normalize stats from the league.

  16. Dave on December 2nd, 2004 2:34 pm

    Cuban league stats are utterly worthless.

  17. Frozenropers on December 2nd, 2004 2:59 pm

    #11, what should be taken by the M’s “other account” strategy for acquisition of foreign players, etc.

    DMZ, there is no “magical” accounting system that allows the M’s to pay for a foreign player acquisition but not “pay” for it out of their revenue……..basically they are telling us they have excess cash flow that they do not allocate to their player budget each season, ie. “The M’s could spend more each season on their player budget than they chose to”.

  18. Shoeless Jose on December 2nd, 2004 4:01 pm

    I saw some games in Havana a few years ago, and I’d say the quality of play was generally AA (pitching) to AAA (running/fielding). Hitting is harder to judge (at least for me) since it is affected by both the pitching and the parks (which are really run down). And I wasn’t tracking stats either — having too much fun sitting in the stands with everybody passing around food and yelling at one another (fans of each team) in a very good-natured way.

  19. Mark on December 2nd, 2004 6:35 pm

    I am a big Drew fan and I think that he would be an excellent fit with the Mariners. The 5 years that he is asking for is a bit much but I would love to see the M’s sign him up (or at least offer a 3 year deal).

    If he wants five years from the Braves, he’ll want five years from the Mariners, too. Maybe more, since he’d be going from a division champion to one that has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the division next year. Rational self-interest dictates that players at his age should be looking for long-term deals, since he’ll certainly be tailing off three years from now. There’s no incentive for him to sign shorter term deals–that would just lock him into a lower-value deal once the first contract is done–so logically the team would have to convince him to sign a shorter contract by throwing a bunch of money at him. The team that signs him will be the one that’s either willing to sign the long-term deal or the one offering more than any other for the shorter term. (Barring collusion, of coure.)

  20. Econ guy on December 2nd, 2004 7:30 pm

    Re #34
    Drew may want a 5 year deal but he will only get a 5 year deal for $50 million if a team is willing to offer it to him. I don’t think that any team will be willing to offer that much. He may get a 5 year deal, but I doubt he can get 5 years and $10 million per year.

    Atlanta has implied that they have no intention of offering a contract that large and I am not sure that other teams will either.

  21. Michael on December 2nd, 2004 8:08 pm

    guiseppe, you’re right, the local latino community is not as large as in socal, but still significant and very much ignored by the media. Also, given the level of success latino players have had for some time now, the Mariners could really benefit from focusing their scouting more intensely there. (King Felix excepted of course)

  22. Bela Txadux on December 2nd, 2004 9:58 pm

    Re: Morales, I’m very glad the Ms didn’t pony up the price. Risk/reward just doesn’t play for Kendry. But I think Arte Moreno has larger purposes: he’s clearly going for Latin players for a Latino fanbase, and I suspect Moreno has big, big designs on Cuba once Fidelio kicks it and on the following morning the country opens up. Half of his $$ here are to sign Morales, I think; the other half were to make a splash to get the attention of Cuban atheletes and their ‘advisors,’ to get in the game for them in the near future in the same way the Ms are in the game for most any Nipponese player. If it plays that way, Arte’s dinero is well spent.

  23. C on December 2nd, 2004 11:06 pm

    Speaking of large contracts and Latin players, I found this commentary in the Houston paper interesting:

    Any thoughts?

  24. Eric on December 3rd, 2004 11:43 am

    Speaking of first basemen, the good thing out of the Giambi scandal is that the Yankees are likely to go outbid everyone else for one of the two aging first basemen we’re told the Ms are courting.

    From the NY Post:

    “The Yankees have options at first base. Before yesterday’s news, they had discussions with the agents for Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson. And they remain interested in bringing back John Olerud. After that, the market is thin, with Martinez and Travis Lee bringing up the rear.

    “‘We spoke to them,’ said David Sloane, Delgado’s agent. ‘I met with Brian Cashman at the [November] GM meetings.’

    “Casey Close, Sexson’s agent, said, ‘We talked to the Yankees at the beginning of the free-agent process and at the time it wasn’t a fit. But it will be interesting to see. I didn’t call Brian [yesterday] but he knows where Richie is.’

    “Olerud would give the Yankees a defensive force at first but wouldn’t provide the muscle Delgado or Sexson would. Of course, Giambi didn’t flex many muscles last season.

    “Delgado is interesting because he has drawn interest from the Red Sox, Orioles and the Blue Jays, with whom he has spent his entire career. By signing the 32-year-old left-handed hitter, the Yankees would be hurting three of the four teams in the AL East.”

  25. eponymous coward on December 3rd, 2004 12:54 pm

    I’d go ‘ulp’ if I were the M’s GM…and sign Drew to 5 years at $50 million.

    I see it as a better deal than Delgado or Sexson for 3 years at 30 million. YMMV.