Kendrys Morales and the “Big Bat” Myth

Dave · September 5, 2013 at 10:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I consider Ryan Divish a friend. I make a point of hanging out with him every time we’re in the same city, and while we don’t always agree on everything, I like talking baseball with him and reading what he has to say. So, none of this is an attack on Divish. Don’t take it that way.

In the last few weeks, there’s been a decent amount of conversation about what the Mariners should do with Kendrys Morales. I noted a few weeks back that I think Morales has played himself out of the qualifying offer, and the reality at this point is that if the Mariners make him a $14 million offer for one year, he’s going to take it, because he’s simply not going to get anything close to a better offer from a team that also has to give up a draft pick in order to outbid that price.

After Morales hit the game winning home run last night, Divish wrote these paragraphs in his postgame blog:

The Mariners need Morales, who also doubled in the game, for more than just this season. If you look at their current roster set-up and what’s available in the minor leagues, they simply don’t have a traditional middle of the order hitter, who is comfortable in that role.

Morales has no problem with hitting in the No. 3 or 4 spot.

“I have over 500 at-bats in the middle of the line-up,” he said. “There is no reason to feel any pressure or feel any different.”

But how he feels about coming back to Seattle for another year or beyond is an unknown. Morales is a free agent after this season, and his agent Scott Boras is notorious for taking his clients to free agency over signing contract extensions. With a lack of power hitters in this free agent class, Morales could make more on the open market than an extension from the Mariners or the one-year qualifying offer of around $14 million for the 2014 season.

As I stated above, I think the last sentence is just wrong, but the reason that people keep stating that Morales is going to get some big offers in free agency is in the first section: the idea that Morales is a “traditional middle of the order hitter”. And, really, unless you have the most liberal definition of that term in history, it’s simply not true.

There are currently 173 hitters who have accumulated at least 400 plate appearances so far this year, or about six roughly “full time” position players per team. If we’re defining “middle of the order” as #3/#4 hitters, then one definition could be the top 60 hitters in baseball, since 30 teams with two line-up spots per team. This is a pretty rigid definition, but if talent was evenly distributed, it would work out as a decent definition for a guy you want up with men on base.

Of those 173 batters, here’s where Kendrys Morales rates in various offensive metrics that pertain to things that people generally want in a “middle of the order” hitter:

wRC+: 72nd (115)
SLG: 73rd (.443)
ISO: 83rd (.163)

Morales doesn’t qualify in the top 60 of any of these measures. His slugging percentage puts him squarely between Starling Marte and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Isolated slugging is a little better judge of just pure power, though, since it subtracts out singles, which are probably not something we’re super concerned with when defining a “middle of the order” hitter; by ISO, he’s in a four way tie with Matt Carpenter, Justin Smoak, and A.J. Pierzynski.

Really, though, if you’re evaluating a hitter’s performance, you should care more about the overall value than exactly how they get there, since getting on base and avoiding outs matters too, and isn’t included in the power measures. So, wRC+ gives us a better view of Morales’ overall batting value, where his 115 grades out as 15 percent better than average. Here’s a full list of the 400+ PA players with a wRC+ between 112 and 118 this year:


Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Eric Hosmer 589 0.300 0.354 0.445 0.348 118
Jason Heyward 405 0.253 0.347 0.423 0.342 118
Shane Victorino 472 0.294 0.351 0.449 0.352 117
Jed Lowrie 576 0.287 0.346 0.431 0.340 117
Torii Hunter 573 0.301 0.335 0.465 0.347 117
Neil Walker 469 0.262 0.351 0.413 0.337 116
Mike Napoli 514 0.253 0.344 0.456 0.349 116
Carl Crawford 408 0.294 0.346 0.414 0.334 116
Howie Kendrick 451 0.301 0.341 0.437 0.337 116
Kendrys Morales 568 0.280 0.336 0.443 0.340 115
Nate Schierholtz 430 0.259 0.310 0.492 0.343 114
Justin Smoak 445 0.251 0.348 0.415 0.339 114
Chris Carter 506 0.220 0.320 0.454 0.338 114
Pablo Sandoval 505 0.279 0.335 0.421 0.329 114
Jean Segura 574 0.304 0.337 0.438 0.338 113
Coco Crisp 496 0.260 0.331 0.437 0.334 113
Dustin Pedroia 638 0.296 0.371 0.411 0.345 113
Everth Cabrera 435 0.283 0.355 0.381 0.329 112

Morales’ hitting — not including his baserunning, which makes him a less effective offensive player than wRC+ shows, but we’re just talking hitting for now — puts him between Howie Kendrick and Nate Schierholtz. In the same range as Morales, we find a bunch of shortstops, a couple of second baseman, a few center fielders, a left fielder with a center fielder’s skillset, a couple of disappointing first base prospects who haven’t developed into quality players yet, a lousy season from Kung Fu Panda, and a decline phase Mike Napoli.

On that entire list, Napoli is the only one besides Morales that anyone might call a “middle of the order hitter”, but that’s because a couple of years ago, Napoli posted a 178 wRC+ and was one of the dominant offensive forces in baseball. He’s not that anymore, but reputations linger for a while.

Morales, though, this is what he is, and has always been. His career wRC+ is 117. Last year, it was 118. In his career year back in 2009, before he broke his ankle, he posted a 136 wRC+, which is okay but still nothing spectacular for a “middle of the order hitter”, especially if we cherry pick their very best season.

Morales’ peers with the bats are generally pretty good up-the-middle players or bad corner guys. He’s hanging out with the likes of Jed Lowrie and Neil Walker, who are valuable because they hit this well while playing shortstop and second base respectively. This is how well Torii Hunter hits, and despite the fact that Torii Hunter is a pretty good outfielder and can also run the bases with some talent, the Angels didn’t make him a qualifying offer last year. Morales can’t play the field and is the worst runner in baseball, but apparently none of that matters because he’s so good at hitting.

Except he’s not so good at hitting. He’s okay at hitting. He’s not bad. He’s above average, even. He makes a decent amount of contact and drives some balls out of the ballpark. He takes a walk once in a while. He’s a switch-hitter, and he’s even learned how to hit lefties. He’s not an offensive black hole.

But, really, the idea that Kendrys Morales is a “middle of the order” hitter is a total myth. No one else who hits like Kendrys Morales gets that label, because players with this kind of offensive performance generally aren’t one of the two best hitters on their team. On a good team, these guys are the third or fourth or fifth best hitter, and as you will note from the names around him, the rest of the players who hit like this get value by playing a position and running the bases.

Evaluating players by labels or batting order positions is a lousy idea anyway, even when those labels are true. In this case, it’s entirely undeserved. Kendrys Morales might have experience hitting 3rd or 4th, but that is the exact same excuse that Bill Bavasi gave when he acquired Carl Everett to be DH back in 2006. He’d hit cleanup before, and he had a bunch of RBIs, so he was qualified and necessary to make that line-up work. Except, you know, we all saw how that turned out.

But, really, Morales isn’t 2006 Carl Everett. He’s a lot better than that. In reality, Morales’ offensive production makes him a pretty close approximation of the guy Bavasi acquired to replace Carl Everett at DH. We’ll just close with the following comparison.


Year Name PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Fld BsR WAR
2013 Kendrys Morales 562 0.279 0.336 0.444 0.341 115 (1.4) (5.0) 0.9
2007 Jose Vidro 625 0.314 0.381 0.394 0.345 111 (4.1) (0.9) 1.1

2013 Kendrys Morales is is basically a rehash of 2007 Jose Vidro. It’s a few more homers and a few less singles, but the package is basically the same. No one thought Jose Vidro was a “traditional middle of the order hitter”. No one should think Kendrys Morales is either.

Comments

77 Responses to “Kendrys Morales and the “Big Bat” Myth”

  1. Sports on a Shtick on September 5th, 2013 10:36 pm

    I have no doubt the Mariners will offer Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer.

  2. Dave on September 5th, 2013 10:46 pm

    Of course they will. And he’ll take it. And they’ll have spent $14 million to re-sign a guy who is about as good as Mike Carp.

  3. Dobbs on September 5th, 2013 10:56 pm

    I just have a hard time seeing a Boras client take the offer and pass up a chance to play the FA field. Is there an example of Boras doing such a thing ever? Or am I ignorant of how the offer works?

    Also, how much will non-Sabre GMs look at his stats and think he could hit 30 homers if he wasn’t at Safeco?

  4. Sportszilla on September 5th, 2013 11:03 pm

    It just goes to show you that after a few years of utter offensive ineptitude, slight competence will be confused for greatness.

  5. Dave on September 5th, 2013 11:04 pm

    The qualifying offer has only been in existence since last off-season. It’s a new thing, and last year, three Boras clients sat around all winter watching their markets dissolve because they got and declined a QO, with each signing for way less than they thought they’d get when FA began.

    And non-SABR GMs don’t love Morales either. This isn’t a SABR/non-SABR thing. He’s a bat-only player whose bat isn’t even that good by traditional metrics. The idea of Kendrys Morales being some kind of impact hitter is a myth propagated by the Mariners in an attempt to convince the fans that they were worth watching again.

  6. Dobbs on September 5th, 2013 11:28 pm

    Thanks for the recap on Boras clients last off-season. It’ll be interesting to see how Boras responds to that.

  7. RyanDivish on September 5th, 2013 11:33 pm

    The operative in the passage Dave quoted from me is “could” …

    With a lack of power hitters in this free agent class, Morales COULD make more on the open market than an extension from the Mariners or the one-year qualifying offer of around $14 million for the 2014 season.

    Kind of like, I COULD date Olivia Munn of the Newsroom if I just met her. I COULD win the lottery if I buy tickets every day. Jesus Montero COULD learn how to catch if … nevermind.

  8. Dobbs on September 5th, 2013 11:38 pm

    I just checked on those 3 and it seems like they all made out okay for compensation, trading a few mill for a couple more years guaranteed. I think with Boras that it’ll take a total failure where a player gets less than 14 mill on a one or two year deal before he starts re-considering the strategy.

    I’d be surprised if he has Morales take the QO despite his results this past season.

  9. Steve Nelson on September 5th, 2013 11:42 pm

    The Jose Vidro comparison really says it all – because Jose Vidro was touted as a “#2 hitter” filling that gaping #2 hole in lineup for the 2007 Mariners.

    So now the forward-thinking Mariners are getting ready to dub a guy who, by classical definitions, isn’t any more valuable than a #2 hiters, as the team’s needed “middle of the order impact bat”.

    A classic example of the “deja moo” principle – where you know that you’ve already heard this BS.

  10. evolvingcaveman on September 5th, 2013 11:48 pm

    Enjoy this debate, but again from a Mariner fan perspective how many of our guys have a better wRC+,SLG,ISO package then Kendrys this year? Even if that wouldn’t have cut it in other cities he’s MOTO for us because we don’t have any better hitters using the example you laid out. I feel like you’re taking away my best christmas present and we know good and well next years Mariners DH will not match those Kendrys numbers. If the 8 million overpay prevents us from getting a real free-agent then I guess I’m much more in your corner but I close my eyes and tell myself they have the money.

  11. jordan on September 5th, 2013 11:51 pm

    I only want the M’s to keep Morales because I feel like (given their track record) they could/would do worse if they chose to try and spend the saved money on another FA

  12. Steve Nelson on September 5th, 2013 11:52 pm

    @Dave on September 5th, 2013 11:04 pm

    … The idea of Kendrys Morales being some kind of impact hitter is a myth propagated by the Mariners in an attempt to convince the fans that they were worth watching again.

    Funny. My impression that is a myth perpetuated more by Geoff Baker than by the Mariners.

    That it has gained such traction seems to me more a tribute to Baker than to the Royal Brougham habitue.

    *****

    In the bigger picture, though, there is almost no one-year contract that debilitates a franchise. If the Mariners do wind up Morales on a one-year ~$14 million contract, that isn’t going to create the problems that would have entailed from having Hamilton accept their offer or something like the Sexson contract, that we know was crippling from the moment that we knew that serious negotiations were underway.

  13. Breadbaker on September 6th, 2013 12:14 am

    The best result for the M’s would be to make the offer and have Morales refuse it. The draft choice would be lovely.

  14. Steve Nelson on September 6th, 2013 12:36 am

    @Breadbaker on September 6th, 2013 12:14 am

    The best result for the M’s would be to make the offer and have Morales refuse it. The draft choice would be lovely.

    The draft choice is a pipe dream. The point of the article is that the chances of any team offering a contract to Morales after the Mariners make a qualifying start at slim and go downhill from there.

    What I expect will happen is that during negotiations the Mariners will offer Morales a contract for something like 2/16 with a 3rd year team option. They will tell him that if he doesn’t take that they will make him a qualifying offer, which will effectively leave him a choice between 1/14 and whatever the Mariners offer on a multi-year offer.

    If the Mariners play it properly the outcome should be that they either have Morales under a reasonable contract for two or three years, or they will be in an overpay situation for one year. Boras will try to contravene that in any way that he can, but the Mariners really do hold most of the high cards. They just need to have the presence of mind and awareness to play those cards intelligently.

    *****
    I think this would present an interesting conundrum for Boras and Morales. If they believe that Morales is truly an elite player, who is just rounding into form after the ankle injury, they should take the QO offer as a pillow contract, similar to when Beltre signed with Boston. If Boras doesn’t think he is an elite, his client would probably be better off taking the multi-year offer, as playing under a one-yera contract has a signficant potential to tank his value in the 2014 off-season.

  15. SonOfZavaras on September 6th, 2013 2:20 am

    I’m totally fine still with an earlier idea of Dave’s: 3 years, 27 million. Or thereabouts (I forget Dave’s exact figure).

    $8-9 million a season, I have no issue with, really.

    And if he refuses that, wish him well and thank him for a reasonably solid 2013 season.

    But spending $14 million on a Kendrys Morales season is a gross overpay, even for someone we’re trying to entice to come hit at Safeco Field.

    And the draft choices WOULD’VE been nice, but I gave up on those around the All-Star break. No way does the Morales camp turn down a $14 mil pillow contract.

    Now please tell me the Mariners have the brains to not make a QO to Morales. They stand to benefit- and quite possibly still get Morales- if they just slow play this J-10 hand a little.

  16. leftfield limey on September 6th, 2013 3:01 am

    The QO to Morales is a much more interesting decision than it ought to be given the stats from both the team and player perspective.

    I wonder whether any player would consider Seattle as a good place to take a one year “pillow contract” (even at $14m) given the apparent difficulty in anyone hitting well there, the relatively low profile of the Mariners and the likelihood of a losing season in 2014. Do you not head to Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium at the expense of a few million in salary, inflate the numbers in the bandbox, revel in the glory and sign up to the multi-year deal for big bucks thereafter easily recouping the one year “loss” in 2014? It will be interesting to see the tactics.

    From the Mariners point of view, $14m seems like a lot but it is all relative. Seattle have had a dire history of DHs since Edgar and I would not mind “overpaying” for Morales unless there is some degree of certainty of obtaining better elsewhere or unless paying Morales over the odds is going to prevent the money being spent on significant upgrades elsewhere on the roster. The poor history in attracting free agents to Seattle (especially hitting ones) on anything like reasonable salaries makes you appreciate the bird in the hand much more.

  17. Snuffy on September 6th, 2013 5:15 am

    Resigning Kendrys, with injury issues, no speed, limited defensive ability (leading to more injuries) invites the likes of future clones to Morse & Raul in the outfield. Offensively, the M’s seem to sign/trade for offensive hopefuls who really are not good athletes; Smoak, Montero, Morse, Raul, Kendrys are examples. None of these guys has an arm, none can run well (and that’s being kind), All (save Smoak) are poor defensive players. Good baseball players don’t have to be good athletes, but that limits defensive and baserunning options.
    Pass on Kendrys. 14m for him is a bad investment.

  18. DarkKnight1680 on September 6th, 2013 5:46 am

    Even 9M is a bad investment, especially for more than one year. We’re talking about a 1-2 WAR guy here, who provides nothing in versatility or true upside. Let him walk unless he wants 2/6M or something like that. I’d almost rather have Peguero, for what he costs and what he brings. And I hate Peguero.

    Hell, I’d way rather have Wlad Balentien back from Japan.

  19. PackBob on September 6th, 2013 6:38 am

    I was fine with offering Morales the qualifying offer, even as an overpay, because he at least gave the Mariners a DH that could hit above average. It’s been a long time since the Mariners have had that player.

    But that’s not a good reason to hire Morales. I would much rather project the Mariners as a good team in 2014, and a good team simply would not have Morales hitting in the middle of the lineup.

    If the Mariners are going to have a slightly above average hitter in the middle of the order, at least let him be able to run the bases, and not jiggle when he runs.

  20. Paul Martin on September 6th, 2013 6:49 am

    With Boras as the agent, I still think he might turn down the qualifying offer. Look at Lohse and Soriano last year, I thought Boras was CRAZY not to have them take the qualifying offer. They got long term contracts with little to no market for their services.

    I am not saying Morales will get the 14 million annual salary, but could he get 3 Years 27 million from someone? YES!

    It only takes one team or one owner to get a little crazy.

    I think Texas is a good fit for him on a 3 year 27 million contract.

  21. eponymous coward on September 6th, 2013 7:00 am

    Enjoy this debate, but again from a Mariner fan perspective how many of our guys have a better wRC+,SLG,ISO package then Kendrys this year? Even if that wouldn’t have cut it in other cities he’s MOTO for us because we don’t have any better hitters using the example you laid out.

    Overpaying for a mediocre player because your existing hitters on the roster are terrible is part of what the M’s problems have been over the years.

    And come to think of it, I can I can think of a better comp to Kendrys Morales than Jose Vidro- a slow corner player who used the M’s to cash in on some serious money…

  22. Westside guy on September 6th, 2013 7:04 am

    ^ Problem is: This already happened – three time last off-season, when the qualifying offer concept was new. All three times, the player lost.

    Boras is many things but stupid is not one of them.

  23. Sowulo on September 6th, 2013 7:15 am

    Compared to Morales, Bruce Bochte, as the M’s first ever .300 avg/100 rbi guy would be a first ballot HOF.

    I agree with Dave. Morales is ok but not someone you build your offense around. And certainly not worth anything near $14mil.

  24. groundzero55 on September 6th, 2013 7:35 am

    I certainly don’t have a problem with Morales on the team – he’s no Cabrera, but he’s not terrible and I don’t always get sick to my stomach when I see him step into the batter’s box.

    However, I’d rather see him hit somewhere like 5th in the order, not 3rd or 4th. We are still looking for that impact-type cleanup hitter. And even if we end up chasing a Choo or Ellsbury this offseason, that’s not them either, in my opinion.

    I did not remember Vidro being that good for the M’s. I REALLY did not recall him batting .314.

  25. bat guano on September 6th, 2013 8:12 am

    The M’s could do worse than one year of Morales at $14 million. Like maybe 3 years of Morales at $40 million. IMO, if we sign him to a qualifying offer we’ve dodged a bullet—I’m more worried that they’ll give him stupid money for a longer term. If we could also sign a couple of better players who actually would qualify as top 60 players, say Ellsbury and Beltran (the latter on a short term contract), so much the better.

    Whether one agrees with Dave or not, it’s always nice to have a Mariners post from him here.

  26. Peewee_Briley on September 6th, 2013 8:25 am

    Yes, the draft pick is going to deflate his value on the open market. But what is not explained herein is that 1/3 of mlb teams (the worst 10) will not have draft pick compensation tied to signing him. That said, I doubt the Astros, Marlins, Cubs, Twins, etc. will have any interest in Morales.

  27. Westside guy on September 6th, 2013 8:27 am

    “I did not remember Vidro being that good for the M’s. I REALLY did not recall him batting .314.”

    If you want to know why you don’t remember that season, go to FanGraphs and look up his subsequent season.

  28. NiceThrowLupus on September 6th, 2013 8:40 am

    Back in June Dave didn’t have any problem with having him back. Has his value really cratered that much in 3 months? It may have cratered in the SABR community but as you all know, the SABR community is not truly comparable to how the free agent marketplace works. I highly doubt that his true value on the market has been torpedoed that much this season. Yes it would be great if every free agent that could fit within our budget and is a tremendous value could sign here but you have to be realistic. When given a choice between a consistent winning franchise and the Mariners, the majority of free agents on the market do not pick the Mariners. Is he the best value for a hitter on the market in 2014? No, of course not. But what are the odds that the best value hitters on the market actually decide to come to Seattle? Not very likely. So don’t discount the handcuff factor we have in this case. It doesn’t happen very often for the Mariners.

  29. Liam on September 6th, 2013 8:51 am

    If Ryan Divish and the Mariners think that Kendrys Morales is a big bat, isn’t it possible that people who work for other baseball teams do as well?

  30. amnizu on September 6th, 2013 9:14 am

    What I got out of Dave’s post:

    The rest of the Mariner’s offense (minus Seager) is so bad that it makes a mediocre hitter like Morales look good.

  31. diderot on September 6th, 2013 9:17 am

    The ‘label’ argument is really a red herring. No reason to focus on that.

    And contextualizing Morales to the league doesn’t concern me, either. The context I care about is the Seattle Mariners.

    So, would the team be better next year with him or without him? I vote he stays–no matter where he hits in the order.

    Is he worth the $14 million? Like everyone else here, it’s not my money…so sure. But could we spend that money more wisely on better talent?

    In the free agent market, I doubt it. Would the $14 mil spread across four or five years be more likely to land Ellsbury or Choo? I doubt it…but I sure don’t know that, either.

    I think the far more relevant argument will be what we’re willing to ‘spend’ in terms of young players to find those elusive ‘middle of the order’ bats.

  32. Mike Snow on September 6th, 2013 9:20 am

    And they’ll have spent $14 million to re-sign a guy who is about as good as Mike Carp.

    Come now, don’t let Carp’s career year (in 200 PAs) fool you. Not that Morales is worth big money, but he is better than Carp.

  33. Longgeorge1 on September 6th, 2013 9:37 am

    I am really tired of these DH only types. As the team gets better the games in NL parks and this thing they call the World Series (Has it ever been to Seattle? [ HA HA HA]) become more important and losing that “middle of the line-up bat” in the real post season is hard. Seems like the NL has been doing pretty good in the ol’ WS lately. How about targeting Guti as our DH. He might stay healthy and in a pinch he could play the OF pretty darn good. Just rotate guys into that spot when they need a rest. Use Zunino some on his off days too. Spend the bucks on a real pitcher. Spend the bucks on a real position player, I don’t care I am tired of aging has beens clogging the bases and and tripping ing left field.

  34. ripperlv on September 6th, 2013 9:57 am

    If I were a member of the jury, I would find your commentary totally convincing and would convict the Mariners prior to the QO.

    I believe JZ is a hot mess and has bungled numerous opportunities and will do so again when he makes Morales the QO.

    I also believe, without any proof, that JZ is manipulated by Lincoln when money is involved, and that he is manipulated by Armstrong in personnel manners, both on and off the field.
    We could see vast changes in the Mariners organization, but it won’t be Armstrong/Lincoln.

  35. Chasbo on September 6th, 2013 10:00 am

    What masks this discussion is the fact he plays for the Mariners. In our eyes (fans) he looks great because we are judging him against the other Mariners. Put him on a contending team and he is just another nice piece in their lineup.

    The conundrum here is, who can the Mariners actually sign that is better.

  36. evolvingcaveman on September 6th, 2013 10:22 am

    “Overpaying for a mediocre player because your existing hitters on the roster are terrible is part of what the M’s problems have been over the years”

    Out of that list of 173, only 52 players have better wRC,SLG and ISO then Kendrys. He qualifies as a top 60 guy off that very list and if we pay him 14 when his market is 9, we’re all arguing about 5million bucks in a game with no salary cap and more money then that shed next season just in Guti’s contract.
    We fans deserve to not lose Kendrys and flail around adding more black holes to fill for “hopefully cheaper”. He’s clearly not mediocre as even the article rankings of 72,73,83 makes him a top 3(90) hitter on Every team in the league. Pay him the extra 5million and go get us an OF.
    Time to start hearing the reasons why Ellsbury isn’t good enough or is too expensive and will break us.

  37. Longgeorge1 on September 6th, 2013 10:24 am

    Chasbo and everyone else If you can’t sign anyone REALLY good don’t sign someone just to say OK we tried. I would rather go Astros and play a bunch of kids ( OK they have Bedard) than have a bunch of injured DH’s trying to play the field. This teams biggest weakness was the roster make-up which allowed for no flexibility. I know that SABR says numbers mean more than athleticism but someone has to be able to chase balls in the outfield or score from 2nd on a basehit or go 1st to 3rd on a hit. I have a lot of belief in SABRmetrics but a dose of believe what you see is not out of line either

  38. CCW on September 6th, 2013 10:38 am

    I’d make him the qualifying offer. $14mm on a one-year deal for a guy like Morales, where he’s playing for his next contract, is a reasonable, fairly low risk, deal. And I think he very well might take his chances and reject the offer. I’d way rather be on the hook for $14mm for one year than $25-30 for three years.

  39. shortbus on September 6th, 2013 10:57 am

    I think this analysis is spot on as far as Morales’ actual value. A couple of things make me worry less about this potentially bad move than others the team might make. For one, there aren’t a lot of obviously better options for the M’s to take that spot. The best alternative is probably to just not have a formal DH and let our other position players rotate as DH to keep their legs fresh.

    The other thing is, it’s not my money and the M’s are reported to have lots of it coming in next year. A one year deal for Morales shouldn’t prevent the team from making other moves.

    And if Morales is on a one year deal, he won’t block any of the bat-first players like Petersen, Choi or whoever might come up from the minors and be blocked by Smoak at first. If we sign another FA DH it might require a longer deal, more money and cause less salary flexibility in the long run.

    While I hope the team does not give Morales the QO and tries to re-sign him as a FA, there are lots worse things the team can do this offseason.

  40. jak924 on September 6th, 2013 10:58 am

    At this point in his career, Morales is just a guy. Unfortunately, he never will really recover from his ankle injury. It’s rather sad to watch him attempt to run the bases, and tends to clog them up. I can’t see any NL team interested in him. Only a very few AL teams may show limited interest.

  41. G-Man on September 6th, 2013 11:14 am

    “What masks this discussion is the fact he plays for the Mariners. In our eyes (fans) he looks great because we are judging him against the other Mariners. Put him on a contending team and he is just another nice piece in their lineup.
    The conundrum here is, who can the Mariners actually sign that is better.”

    The above post by chas probably best summed up my thoughts. I was a little surprised to see KM’s stats relative to others, as I, too, had seen him as valuable just because most of his teammates are worse.

    The team is going to spend its payroll budget somewhere. Kendrys would be overpaid at $14M, but for a one-year deal, it wouldn’t be that bad. If there isn’t a good alternative, might as well roll the dice by making the offer and see if we can get the draft pick. If they can spend the money better elsewhere and have a more cost-effective DH, then do it.

  42. eponymous coward on September 6th, 2013 11:22 am

    We fans deserve to not lose Kendrys and flail around adding more black holes to fill for “hopefully cheaper”.

    So, you want to overpay for mediocre players?

    Again, look at Dave’s list, right where it says “Here’s a full list of the 400+ PA players with a wRC+ between 112 and 118 this year”. The key takeaway is ” In the same range as Morales, we find a bunch of shortstops, a couple of second baseman, a few center fielders, a left fielder with a center fielder’s skillset, a couple of disappointing first base prospects who haven’t developed into quality players yet, a lousy season from Kung Fu Panda, and a decline phase Mike Napoli. ”

    You’re paying for a guy who’s slow, can’t play anything other than DH, and who’s on the wrong side of 30, and is a worse hitter than Richie Sexson was at the same age. He’s just not very good as a DH.

    The M’s come into 2014 with an estimated salary load of 45 million without options exercised. Kendrys Morales with the QO puts you a around 60 million. That’s before you’ve:

    - added anyone to the rotation
    - added anyone as an OFer
    - added any depth at C or infield
    - examined replacing Smoak (hint, you arguably should think about it, because unless he goes absolutely nuts in September, he’s a below average player at 1B, just like how Morales is a below-average player at DH).

    Paying Kendrys Morales 14 million in free agency as a ~1 WAR DH probably means you have to do the same “hope and pray the kids are good, plus sign mediocre and bad veterans” exercise in 2014 that you did in 2013, because you won’t have enough dollars to cover the potential upgrades, or you have to boost salary significantly from 80 million, in a year where the M’s were once again a disappointment and have not generated any real fan interest past the hardcore remnants of the fanbase. I don’t think it’s a given that the front office will do the latter, and I think it very likely the front office will do the former, given the track record so far.

    As for what the fans deserve- they deserve management that understands player value. Kendrys Morales is not a particularly valuable player at 1 year/14 million, especially on a team that has a LOT of holes to patch.

  43. bookbook on September 6th, 2013 11:36 am

    There was some legitimate hope that 2009 was a breakout in the making, not a career year. And then the further hope that health was now here, and 2013 would be a coming out party.

    It didn’t happen, but making the case that it could–and was worth the price of Jason Vargas and a few million to find out… the trade was still a solid one.

  44. RyanDivish on September 6th, 2013 11:43 am

    A few things … I tried to leave a comment earlier, but either Marc deleted it (See if i buy you an adult beverage again) or I don’t know how to properly leave a comment (a stronger possibility).

    I don’t necessarily believe that Morales is a traditional middle of the order hitter either. For this team he is one. For the Astros he’d be one. The Mariners believe it, which is why I wrote it. But on a good team, he’s probably a No. 6 hitter. I have questions about his conditioning and health going forward based on what I’ve seen this season. Other than Kyle Seager, he’s the Mariners next best hitter, which really isn’t saying much.

    The operative word in what I wrote is “could.” Morales could get a better deal on the free agent market because he has Boras as an agent. The free agent class is not great. Also Kendrys is running out of chances to get a bigger money. This may be his last chance to get a multi-year deal, which is what Boras will sell him on.

    As for paying him $14 million for a one season, if he accepts the qualifying offer, he obviously isn’t worth it. You can debate whether Felix Hernandez is worth the money he is going to earn over the next seven years.

    But the Mariners are a bad team with no hitting help in on the horizon. Perhaps $14 million could be better spent for next season, but then you also assume the people making those decisions are capable of doing that. Nothing we’ve seen should allow you to make that assumption.

  45. djw on September 6th, 2013 11:46 am

    $14mm on a one-year deal for a guy like Morales, where he’s playing for his next contract, is a reasonable, fairly low risk, deal.

    Just FYI, there is no good reason to include “playing for his next contract” in your thinking. The notion that players excel beyond a standard projection in their “contract year” is a myth:

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/04/18/by-the-numbers-the-myth-of-the-contract-year-phenomenon/

  46. eponymous coward on September 6th, 2013 11:58 am

    But the Mariners are a bad team with no hitting help in on the horizon. Perhaps $14 million could be better spent for next season, but then you also assume the people making those decisions are capable of doing that. Nothing we’ve seen should allow you to make that assumption.

    So the argument in favor of a Morales signing boils down to “Well, as long as they shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to player acquisition they won’t shoot themselves in the head”?

    Shouldn’t we have better expectations for a front office than “marginally better than Bill Bavasi at free agent acquisitions” (and that’s actually debatable, because Bavasi signed Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibañez, the good version)?

  47. evolvingcaveman on September 6th, 2013 12:00 pm

    Again it comes back to calling him a mediocre hitter for some reason. Take a look again at the provided list. From the 173 player list 3 out of the 13 that qualify as DH have better wRC+/SLG/ISO then Kendrys. Three. He’s a better DH then Pujols or Swisher or Dunn or Victor Martinez etc.
    This team can add Ellsbury and a J. Vargas to go with Kendrys and still have a payroll not over 90 million.
    He may not be your cup of tea defensively or on the basepaths but he’s Not a mediocre DH via looking at every other DH this season and it’s nice to have someone from the top 1/2 not the bottom 1/2 of the pile for once. A #5 hitter off a championship team as our DH? I’ll take it for the extra cost of 5mil.

  48. RyanDivish on September 6th, 2013 12:05 pm

    I didn’t say it was right or good. I just said, that I don’t have any belief that not giving a Kendrys a qualifying offer will lead to any better investment in a different player based on what I’ve seen in the past.

    You have every right to expect more from a front office. But that doesn’t mean you are going to get it.

  49. Westside guy on September 6th, 2013 12:17 pm

    “You have every right to expect more from a front office. But that doesn’t mean you are going to get it.”

    Curse you and your unassailable logic!

  50. Mathball on September 6th, 2013 12:35 pm

    Looking into this, two things really frustrated me.
    One, we had a DH that would have been just as good already on the team by the name of Jaso. Oh and he could catch. (I know let it go..)

    The second was the fact with a .9 fWAR he is second best “postition” player on the team.

  51. eternal on September 6th, 2013 12:49 pm

    Don’t flame me for getting these details wrong but keeping Jaso and simply purchasing Swisher and Bourn on the open market which should have been doable based on what they got in salary would have netted out to 5-6 wins over Morse/Morales/Catch of the day using the WAR of Bourn (1.6), Swisher(1.6), Jaso (1.2) to Morales (.9) and Morse(-1.2). No dramatic change in the results but better and I’d much rather have the former to watch.

  52. JasonJ on September 6th, 2013 12:53 pm

    I can’t imagine anyone giving up a draft pick for Morales and it’s very unlikely that any of the teams with a top 10 draft pick would have any use for him. Giving him a QO makes no sense at that point.

    I know we are starved for competent bats on this team and that’s what Morales is, but paying $14 M for a 1, maybe 2 WAR player is bad business.

  53. eponymous coward on September 6th, 2013 1:52 pm

    I don’t have any belief that not giving a Kendrys a qualifying offer will lead to any better investment in a different player based on what I’ve seen in the past.

    That’s completely fair, and completely frustrating (and the reason why this front office is so disappointing).

    Again it comes back to calling him a mediocre hitter for some reason.

    “mediocre player“. All the words count. Playing baseball is not all about dingers and hitting.

    Advanced statistics calls Morales out as being a ~1-1.5 WAR player for the last two years. That’s actually somewhat worse than mediocre, as an average player of the course of a full season of plate appearances is around 2 WAR.

    Paying 14 million for a 1-1.5 WAR player is indeed overpaying for a mediocre player, no matter how you slice it.

    Yes, the Mariners have bad hitters and a problem with talent. Overpaying for a mediocre player because he’s not a bad hitter doesn’t fix that. Given that the team has a lot of problems, allocating an excess of resources to no-defense+speed/hit-first players doesn’t fix enough problems.

    This team can add Ellsbury and a J. Vargas to go with Kendrys and still have a payroll not over 90 million.

    I have no evidence that this management group is going to expand payroll dramatically in the offseason- they haven’t the last two years under similar cicrumstances, the attendance has flatlined, the team’s not taking steps forward. If they do, and they make good signings to go along with a one year overpay on a Morales qualifying offer, OK, fine, but I think it more likely that a Morales overpay leads to more “hope and pray the kids are as good as we think, and surround them with veteran-y goodness that doesn’t cost much”, like last year.

  54. okdan on September 6th, 2013 1:54 pm

    Gordon Gross over at Seattle Sports Insider has written a very strong response to this post, that I think is worth reading. Essentially, this decision (and all others) aren’t made in a vacuum. You must consider the merits as they relate to the current circumstances. Which is, most of the players that Dave lists as “better” on that list either 1. aren’t available, or 2. cost so much money that they aren’t realistic options.

    Apologies if cross posting like this isn’t allowed, but I think it’s a thoughtful continuation of this conversation.

    http://seattlesportsinsider.com/article/kendrys-why-value-isnt-determined-vacuum

  55. eponymous coward on September 6th, 2013 2:18 pm

    I don’t really think that link changes anything, or addresses Dave’s point. It’s pretty easy to say that signing Ibanez and the whole set of Mariner offseason moves was better than doing absolutely nothing, given that this would have left us with playing guys like Peguero full time, in the sense of the syllogism of “we need to do something; this is something; therefore, we need to do this”. So sure, in that sense Morales is an improvement over any number of other bad moves for $14 million.

    What Dave is pointing out is the M’s syllogism is flawed here. Is Morales better than using a replacement-level DH? Sure, this is very clear. Is that a good way to spend 14 million on what is clearly a flawed team, if you assume the team isn’t going to expand payroll (which is what they’ve done the last few years since the Bavasi era implosion)? Probably not. If the M’s decide they can add 20 million in payroll? Sure, fine, overpay Morales for a year, no big deal. If overpaying Morales means we punt on improving the rotation? That’s a problem.

  56. CCW on September 6th, 2013 2:31 pm

    Well, the link doesn’t change anything, but it makes some good points. I like this one: “The QO removes the need for the bidding war and exchanges dollars for certainty.” Whether Kendrys is worth $14mm is debatable. I certainly could be convinced he’s not. However, crossing DH off the list without going backwards is a worthwhile end in itself, because you just don’t know what you otherwise might end up with.

  57. fivespot on September 6th, 2013 3:01 pm

    Much of this conversation has taken place without mentioning the ‘other’ Mariner DH. If we extend a QO to Kendrys, and he accepts, then we can expect to see a lot of Raul in the outfield again. And that would be bad. Very bad.

  58. amnizu on September 6th, 2013 3:17 pm

    The opposing view reads more like the classic definition of loss aversion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion) than an actual argument for Morales. 14 M on the market should buy about 3 WAR, or it can buy under 2 with Morales. Seems like an easy choice to me.

  59. djw on September 6th, 2013 3:43 pm

    He may not be your cup of tea defensively or on the basepaths but he’s Not a mediocre DH via looking at every other DH this season and it’s nice to have someone from the top 1/2 not the bottom 1/2 of the pile for once.

    I can understand the impulse to ignore defense for players you plan to DH, and it’s at least a partially defensible strategy (although it hurts your flexibility, so it shouldn’t be discounted entirely). But I can’t for the life of me wrap my mind around why you think baserunning doesn’t matter. It counts. If you’re -5 or more runs on the basepaths, that’s the same in terms of value as being a moderately worse hitter who is an average baserunner. You’re taking “Designated Hitter” a bit too literally here.

    However, crossing DH off the list without going backwards is a worthwhile end in itself, because you just don’t know what you otherwise might end up with.

    This is just a weird argument. People who can hit OK and not play the field just aren’t that hard to find. Zduriencik did it this year, signing Ibanez, who should have been a DH. Ibanez overperformed at the plate, sure, but this isn’t that hard.

    In other words, if Zduriencik used that money to upgrade 2-3 WAR elsewhere, which is what it should buy, and found himself looking for a DH on the cheap, it’s really not that hard to find someone within ~1 WAR of Morales; something Zduriencik has done before.

  60. djw on September 6th, 2013 3:45 pm

    14 M on the market should buy about 3 WAR, or it can buy under 2 with Morales. Seems like an easy choice to me.

    Bingo. I don’t know why everyone seems to think it’s more complicated than this.

    I feel like I’m at a bar that’s charging 11 dollars for a pint of Bud Light, and everyone else refuses to consider going to the bar down the street because “we don’t know what we’re going to get.”

  61. okdan on September 6th, 2013 3:45 pm

    Don’t forget that there is also value in the virtue of it being a 1 year deal, as opposed to a 6-7 deal. With those other theoretical 3 WAR players, sure you might get your money’s worth in year one or two. But what about years 3 – 7 where you’re not getting the production? With Kendrys and his QO, at least you know you’re not on the hook for those decline years.

  62. MrZDevotee on September 6th, 2013 4:04 pm

    Taking the “out of a vacuum” idea into the fold…

    Assuming he stops sucking completely, don’t we already have a Kendrys Morales on our roster, who is the same exact guy with the same exact underachieving skillset (minus the switch hitting)?

    His name is Jesus Montero… And he’s younger, and under team control for much less money.

    If he returns and can figure out how to make contact again, he probably pencils out to provide about exactly what Morales does. And there’s only room for one of them.

    Bottom line in my mind:
    Kendrys Morales = Jesus Montero

    And we only have room for one guy who can’t play a position on the field.

  63. MrZDevotee on September 6th, 2013 4:11 pm

    Addendum:
    “We only have room for one guy who can’t play a position in the field”

    (Excepting the 2013 roster, of course)

  64. bookbook on September 6th, 2013 4:16 pm

    There’s a real point to the crosspost. On the other hand, any time you’re paying 14 million for 7 million in value, there must be some massive opportunity cost to overpay by a mere 3-5 million instead. The M’s can’t afford to pay double what players are worth and put together a contender. We ain’t Yankees Northwest.

  65. SonOfZavaras on September 6th, 2013 5:07 pm

    I’m intrigued by this idea: signing Franklin Gutierrez and making HIM the principal DH and only occasional OF.

    He’d be cheaper than Morales, could actually play a position, wouldn’t block Montero (IF Jesus can figure out hitting at the major league level…I have my doubts)- and he could probably offer comparable offensive value to Morales IF he’s off the field and kept healthy.

    Wouldn’t you rather see HIM run the bases than Morales?

    To be honest, this sounds like a creative solution for an organization that could use a few.

  66. JasonJ on September 6th, 2013 5:16 pm

    Relying on Guti to do anything other than getting hurt/sick is asking for trouble and a waste of a roster spot. I like him but I think everyone is better off if he and the M’s go their separate ways.

  67. Eastside Crank on September 6th, 2013 6:17 pm

    This is a great analysis by Dave and hopefully the FO will agree with it. For those of you who keep insisting that the Mariners desperately need to overpay no-tool ballplayers, consider the Angels J.B. Shuck. He was picked up in the off-season for a minor league deal and has turned into a rookie of the year candidate (an outfielder no less). Good players are out there and the front office needs to show its savvy and find them.

  68. MrZDevotee on September 6th, 2013 6:30 pm

    In a relevant story– CBSSports is reporting that Nelson Cruz’s agents approached the Rangers last season about extending him at $14 million a year (pre PED’s situation) and they said no.

    I know I’d rather have Nelson Cruz for $14 million… He currently has the best “traditional power numbers” of any free agent to be (27 HR’s, .330 OBP, OPS+ 124, 2.2 WAR, in 108 games).

    Just sayin’, $14 million should buy more ballplayer than Kendrys Morales– and I’d actually put myself in the camp of liking Morales.

  69. MrZDevotee on September 6th, 2013 6:34 pm

    Eastside-
    Not arguing with you, but pointing out just how random being “savvy” and finding the right guys actually is…

    Take the Angels, like you mentioned…

    1) picked up a minor leaguer who becomes a potential MLB Rookie of the Year.

    2) Paid huge money for non-playing Pujols and
    declining-awfully Josh Hamilton

    3) Mike “Why Didn’t Anyone Else Draft Him” Trout

  70. Eastside Crank on September 6th, 2013 8:18 pm

    MrZ, you are not helping the FO’s case. Pujols and Hamilton were available to the Angels because the Mariners were unable to sign them. I did not like either of those options due to the large amounts of money involved and felt that the Mariners got lucky they signed elsewhere. The Mariners have lots of people employed to find new players. They need to make better use of them.

  71. terryoftacoma on September 6th, 2013 8:23 pm

    The question is will the Mariner’s offer Morales a QO. Even Dave admits they probably will. If that’s true than debating whether they should is moot. On most teams he’s not a middle of the order bat which shows just how bad our offense is.

    Is there help in this seasons FA market? At this point it depends on who you listen to. Pence, Ellsbury,and Choo will probably get QO. Beltran, Grunderson and Cruz might. After those there isn’t much out there in the area of our needs.

    We don’t need to resign Guti to DH. He’s already ours on a team option for 7.5 mil.

    None of this we will know for sure until after the WS and we see who is offered what by their current teams.

    Debating an unknown, in my oopinion, is useless. I choose to wait and see.

  72. Paul B on September 6th, 2013 8:29 pm

    Boras wins either way.

    If the M’s make a qualifying offer, he takes it (after negotiating for something longer term).

    If the M’s don’t make a qualifying offer, he goes for a multi year deal somewhere, without the anchor of the signing team having to give up a draft pick.

  73. Don Money on September 7th, 2013 1:13 am

    Do you really think Nellie Cruz would put up the same numbers in Safeco that he gets in the Texas bandbox? Morales looked surprisingly adept at first, the only drawback was his back stiffening up after too many consecutive days in the field. He showed he could spell Smoak periodically. He is also hitting without much protection in this line up. Pay the man! With all the stats being kept, is there a site that really takes into account the dimensions of the ball parks on offensive stats? With the uneven schedules, comparing stats from homer happy AL East parks like NY, Tampa, Boston, Baltimore with those from more cavernous fields like Safeco, Oakland, and LA is hardly fair.

  74. ripperlv on September 7th, 2013 7:50 am

    I would rather the M’s go after a real bat like McCann who can play and will be a DH as he ages and Zunino matures. The problem is we never go top notch, always going after guys like Morales, Morse, Byrnes, Sweeny and it gets us nothing. But one bat is not enough to get this rig down the road. Need to get some quality like Ellsbury/Choo/Garza. Yes just a silly dream, but my real point is that Morales is a waste of time if we are really trying to build a winner.
    Note to JZ: Morales is another no defense DH, We need quality position players. Hello. Oh BTW, that is players as in plural. We have not so much in the minors, so it’s time to open wallet, get players. Hello.

  75. LongDistance on September 7th, 2013 11:40 am

    The Mariners will no doubt QO Morales and for several simple reasons (in various shades of gray). The Boras Effect won’t be at work much here, since Morales is a Known Known.

    The Mariners, under Jack Z., have developed a Known Knowns management style, rather than the sort of hail mary, Unknown Unknowns style that resulted in fiascos like Richie Sexson.

    Morales will happily sign and return (anywhere else, he looks like chump meat), which is like saying we went shopping and came back with a gallon of milk, a pound of hamburger, and a pack of toilet paper.

    How I’d love to see the M’s take, at least partially, a Known Unknowns track this fall (go raid the Braves, for instance) looking for some speed and excitement, and a couple of toolsy veteran slap hitters ($$$), this winter.

    And give Felix some breathing room.

    This conservative Known Known approach, is approaching boredom. Better an exciting, total flameout disaster… than this smoldering down to ashes we watched this year.

  76. Dobbs on September 7th, 2013 10:34 pm

    “All three times, the player lost.”

    The worst deal of the 3 Boras had them sign was 3 years, 33 million, not necessarily a loss.

    Soriano got 2 years, 28 million, that’s a win.

    I think it’s very possible Boras hasn’t learned his lesson yet just because he didn’t get his initial asking price.

  77. eponymous coward on September 9th, 2013 10:42 am

    We don’t need to resign Guti to DH. He’s already ours on a team option for 7.5 mil.

    Signing a guy to, in effect, a one year, 7.5 million dollar deal whose games played since 2010 are: 92, 40 and 28 has to be the height of silly.

    But then again, these are the Mariners we’re talking about.

    Guti has shown zero ability to stay healthy, This team needs healthy OFers/DHs, not ones made of glass.

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