Draft day draws nigh, an exciting time for fans as they looks to see hopeful stars of the future. The one person that might be most excited for the draft to come and go though is Kendrys Morales as it means he will finally be freed from qualifying offer purgatory.
Morales is the last of those foolish free agents who chose to reject the qualifying . But once the draft is over, teams will be free to sign him without having to forfeit their first round draft pick. Now all they have to do is deal with Scott Boras. No problem, right?
Well, almost. It turns out that it might not be so easy to find a team willing to pay a DH with a recent history of a major leg injury and a lofty asking price that, at least publicly, he isn’t backing down from. But somebody has to sign, right? Who will it be?
Ever since Prince Fielder went on the DL with his season-ending neck injury, the assumption has been that Morales would land in Arlington. The Rangers were getting middling results out their primary DH, Mitch Moreland, to begin with and now Moreland will take over at first, opening a chasm at DH and in the middle of the order that Morales seems like a great fit for. The problem for Kendrys is that Texas might already be too far gone. In addition to Fielder, they’ve already lost Martin Perez, Matt Harrison and likely Jurickson Profar for the season. There is a legitimate thought that Texas might just write this season off, lick their wounds and sell off parts rather than make a desperation signing of Morales.
Seattle needs Morales back in the worst way, but he seems to want to stay away from them in the worst way. Reports suggest that Morales could’ve accepted the equivalent of his qualifying offer at anytime and re-joined the Mariners, just like Stephen Drew did with the Red Sox. But that hasn’t happened yet and one has to assume it is for a reason. Maybe Morales is waiting around for someone to give him a multi-year deal, but maybe he also would rather take his pillow contract with a team that doesn’t play in an offensive wasteland.
The team linked to Morales most of the off-season was the Orioles. They ultimately chose to forfeit their draft picks for Ubaldo Jimenez (oops!) and Nelson Cruz (yay!), then backed away from Morales. They could look to re-visit that now that the compensation is no longer required, though they may not have the money. Their need, however, isn’t nearly as strong thanks to Nelson Cruz thriving in the DH role in Baltimore and Matt Wieters’ injury forcing him to spend a lot of time in that slot as well. Baltimore could stick Cruz back in the outfield full-time to clear room for Morales, but that can only happen if they have confidence in Wieters being able to catch full-time over the remainder of the season.
There might not be a worse first base situation in baseball than what the Brewers have in their platoon of Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds. Replacing them with a switch-hitting slugger like Morales would give Milwaukee a big boost in their surprising bid to win the NL Central. The only wrinkle is that whole “Morales broke his leg into a million pieces and missed nearly two years” thing. Kendrys played 31 games at first base in 2013, but there are major concerns over whether he can handle playing the field on a daily basis.
Los Angeles Angels
Raul Ibanez’s average is stuck below the Mendoza line and he hasn’t hit a home run in ages. The Halos have given him a long rope, but they have to cut him loose if he doesn’t turn it around soon. Who better to step in than Morales, especially since the Angels are so familiar with his medical history? It is really an ideal fit except for one thing, the money. Be it a one-year deal or a multi-year pact, signing Morales is going to push the Angels either over or right up against the luxury tax and that is a line owner Arte Moreno doesn’t want to cross. If they were to sign Morales, it would all but rule out them making any additions to their shaky bullpen or filling out the back of their rotation at the trade deadline. That is a trade off they need to think long and hard about.
With the Rangers, Mariners and possibly the Angels interested in Kendrys Morales, the most Billy Beane move in the world would be for Oakland to find $10 million under the couch cushions to sign Morales, if only just to keep him away from the rest of the AL West. As savvy and charming as Beane might be, even he might have a hard time convincing ownership to pony up that additional cash when Oakland is already at an $82 million payroll, their highest payroll ever. As such, it is highly unlikely to happen, but you know Beane has to at least be thinking about it.