The Mariners have a decision to make on Kendrys Morales in about six weeks, and it's been somewhat of a debated topic. Morales is set to be a free agent, represented by Scott Boras. The Mariners can decide to offer Morales a qualifying offer of one year, $14 million (estimated), or they can choose to let him walk. If he declines, the Mariners get a supplemental draft pick if he signs somewhere else. If he accepts it, the Mariners get another year of Morales at somewhere near $14 million. There's your background, if you didn't understand the process.
Over at USSM, Dave Cameron has changed his tune on Morales given his second half decline, and doesn't think Morales is worth $14 million next year based on his performance. If you haven't read the article, do it. It's a good reality check to Morales' actual value, his terrible baserunning, and second half decline. He's right on all accounts. Morales is fairly overrated, and sits somewhere between one and two wins going forward. Even as a DH, his wRC+ sits at 118, tied with Jed Lowrie and Shane Victorino. Morales has the same WAR (1.3) as Jon Jay, who has been a wRC+ of 100 and a -7 UZR. Morales isn't a star, and he isn't as good as the Mariners hoped he'd be.
In reality, Morales is worth about $8 million a year, as an "established" bat and reliable producer, even if his production level isn't outstanding. He's now on the wrong side of 30. I'm not comfortable with the Mariners making Morales an offer for more than two years, but that's what it will likely take to bring him back. Morales is a good, not great hitter, and he's a DH. His production isn't terribly hard to replace, and he'd be an overpay at $14 million, even for a single year. So why do it?
Before the new CBA, Scott Boras clients had only accepted arbitration a few times. K-Rod did it in 2011, Greg Maddux did it in 2002, and Kevin Millwood did it in 2003. Boras even did it with Barry Bonds in 2002, hoping to leverage it into a long-term deal. He got it. Even though Adrian Beltre settled on a one-year deal from Boston after departing Seattle, he still declined arbitration. The Mariners got a supplemental draft pick in return. They drafted Taijuan Walker.
It's safe to say that with only a handful of examples, Scott Boras is looking for more than a single-year deal for his clients. That's why players hire him. Boras simply doesn't have a track record of not getting top dollar for his clients, and has no problem going to the wire to get a deal done. Nobody's interested in Michael Bourn? Generate interest, get teams to bid against themselves. Make a deal in February.
While the Mariners have to be prepared that Morales could accept, I simply don't believe it's likely. Under the new CBA, Boras will only have seven days to decide whether to accept, and a lack of initial interest has never stopped Boras before. The rules have changed from the arbitration days, where Adrian Beltre could wait until December 7th to decline. Boras and Morales have a week. Boras doesn't seem likely to settle for some 2/16 kind of deal the first week in November, even if the market looks thin, which it will be. There's egos at play here, and Boras has a big one.
Even if he accepts, I don't see a massive downside. You overpay a player by about $5-6 million for one season, and you know your new budget almost immediately. Even with the extra salary, this front office hasn't been particularly good at signing free agents anyways, and that $5-6 million could mean they can't bring back somebody like Raul Ibanez. This team spent at least $2.75 million on Ibanez this year and $6 million on Joe Saunders. I'm not concerned about spending an extra $5-6 million more than Morales is worth, because they're likely to give him more than he's worth if they bring him back anyways, which I expect them to try hard to do. It might prevent the Mariners from making some bad decisions. $5-6 million isn't going to stop the Mariners from throwing briefcases of cash at Jacoby Ellsbury, but it might stop them from overpaying for mediocrity again.
Besides, for a hitter recently turned 30, overpaying on a one year deal could be better than paying $8 or $9 million a year on a three year deal. Risk means a lot in free agency, and Morales doesn't come without some of his own.
Compare the less likely worst-case scenario against the more likely best-case scenario. Get a good, not great player back for another season on a one-year deal decently over market value, but not tremendously? Or get a draft pick at a place in the draft this organization has been wildly successful at. Even though Tony Blengino is now gone, Tom McNamara still makes his money for picks in in the supplemental round. The Mariners aren't going to get a guy like Taijuan Walker every time they pick there, but they could, and that's worth the risk.
The upside of a declined offer greatly outweighs the downside of an accepted offer and another low-risk year of Morales at a higher salary than he's worth. The Mariners need to protect their investment. Make Kendrys Morales the qualifying offer and work on a more reasonably priced extension if they want to keep him. The worst-case scenario really isn't that bad at all.