Mariners Plan To Trap Kendrys Morales
An important principle is having an understanding of how a team’s success or failure can bias your evaluations. A certain player on a bad team is likely to look better than if he were on a good team, even given a completely identical performance, because good teams come with things like expectations and standards. Everything’s relative, including evaluations, and they’re relative to the context of the team. I had lots of conversations about Michael Saunders a year ago. I was really excited about his breakthrough, coming out of nowhere. Liked him as an everyday outfielder. The reality is that Saunders was and is fine, but he’s more Mariners-good than actually good. Kyle Seager is more Mariners-great than actually great. These guys are values, but they’d seem less valuable on a competitive ballclub.
Kendrys Morales, also, is more Mariners-good than actually good. He seems like a big-bat thumper in large part because of what else and who else we’ve experienced. On a good team, Morales isn’t critical, but the Mariners aren’t a good team, and so that’s kind of how we end up with this:
Jack Z says on @710ESPNSeattle that he’ll definitely make qualifying offer to DH Kendrys Morales this offseason.
— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) October 1, 2013
This has long been the suspicion — now it’s basically been confirmed. The Mariners will offer Morales a one-year deal worth something in the vicinity of $14 million. They’ll also, I bet, try to negotiate a multi-year deal around a similar average annual value. Morales might not be super jazzed about coming back, but the qualifying offer could do a number on his market value, since he’s a DH with an unspectacular track record. He might well end up trapped by the Mariners, and even if he does get away, then the Mariners will get a little compensation. Not so bad, for Seattle.
Except for the ~$14 million part. As a DH who can’t run, Morales needs to hit great to be good, and he hits a level below great, leaving him a level below good. By hitting well, he’s okay, fine even, and the economics of the game are healthy with salaries going through the roof, but Morales is a $14-million player around his career peak, and he hasn’t been there for a long time. He just had an offensive year like Seager’s. We like Seager. Now take away Seager’s defense, and make him less athletic. Also make him years older. You’re left with a role player with a weirdly-shaped head. Morales isn’t the guy the Mariners want him to be.
But he is, at least, acceptable. He’s a demonstrably above-average hitter, and I’m not worried about him collapsing in 2014. The front office would advance the argument that he makes the rest of the hitters better, and, maybe. They’d say it can be hard to find quality bats who want to come to Seattle, and, maybe. They’d say Morales gives the Mariners more credibility, and, maybe. We know the team has a lot of money coming off the books, and even if the Mariners end up overpaying Morales next season, they’ll overpay by just a few million, and they have lots of flexibility. That’s part of the thing — Morales isn’t a $14-million player, but he’s also not a $0-million player. We’re talking about relatively minor inefficiency.
But there’s the matter of a potential long-term contract. That would be an issue beyond 2014, when things look more cloudy. Also, there’s the matter of what this could signify, with regard to the front office’s thinking. I imagine they could spend $14 million better this winter, and to make a commitment to Morales suggests they’re still big on bats and big on dingers and worried about not scoring enough instead of not outscoring enough. I’ll give them time to reveal their plan, but Morales isn’t a star, and I’m not encouraged by a group of executives that thinks that he might be. It’s like if someone at your table can’t calculate a simple tip. In isolation, it doesn’t really matter, but it makes you wonder about what else the person can’t do.
I liked the trade for Morales. I like Morales, as a player. I like that he learned how to improve his switch-hitting, and I like that he doesn’t use gloves. I like that he came back from a devastating injury. I don’t like when the money gets steep. I don’t like when money makes me feel negative about a guy I support. There’s no franchise-ruiner here, but you get the sense the Mariners are about to overpay a DH, and that makes you wonder how else they’ll maneuver. Like it or lump it, the future is coming, and with it some answers.