Earlier this week, ESPN writer Jerry Crasnik tweeted a couple of the funnier things you'll see all offseason, and they involve former Mariner Kendrys Morales and his bout with free agency.
Scott Boras is seeking "multiple years and substantial dollars'' for Kendrys Morales, said an official with one AL club.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 8, 2014
Crasnik followed that tweet up with exactly what every person was thinking.
Translation: Morales might be on the market for a while again this winter unless his expectations change.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 8, 2014
I mean, this has to be a weird, twisted Scott Boras joke to provide some Monday morning humor. This is the same Kendrys Morales whose previous free agency played out like some third-rate satire. Morales turned down a qualifying offer, found no takers to his multiple year contract demands, ended up signing with the Twins months into the season and was then traded back to the Mariners -- the team he turned down in the first place.
Now, Morales is on the same track. Only this time around, he is coming off the worst season of his career. Last year, between the Twins and Mariners, Morales finished with a .218/.274/.338 line, hitting eight home runs and posting a career low wRC+ of 72. He maintained his liability at defense and saw time mainly at DH, posting a WAR of -1.7.
In a way, you almost have to feel bad for Morales. He was a legitimate threat in his first full season as a major league baller. He was never that great at defense, but plenty of first basemen have made a career off of hitting the threads off the ball. In 2009, Morales looked like that player, hitting .306/.355/.569 for 30 home runs and a wRC+ of 136. Good fortune seemed to continue until he broke his leg celebrating a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning -- against the Seattle Mariners of all teams. By even thinking he deserves a multiple-year contract, Morales seems to be firmly stuck in the past.
To follow up on earlier Kendrys Morales tweet, one AL exec said he's looking for 2-3 years at "Billy Butler money.''— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 9, 2014
Poor, poor Morales. Or, more realistically, maybe soon to be pretty rich Morales. Billy Butler just signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Oakland Athletics. Morales isn't worth three-years, or $30 million for that matter. According to the fine community over at Fangraphs, Morales is looking more at a one-year, $6 million contract.
The thing is, despite those seemingly outrageous contract demands, Boras isn't an idiot and knows how to play the market. The depth of potential power hitters still on the free agent market isn't exactly huge, essentially the best other options than Morales being Mark Reynolds and Michael Morse. When doing contract negotiations from Morales' position, you start high and work your way down.
Morse, for his part, did himself a decent job of parlaying his year with the Giants into signs of fleeting life in that aging baseball body of his. As bad as Morales was last season, Reynolds has barely been above replacement for much of his baseball career (excluding his 2009 campaign). So, after Morse goes and a team is looking for power, you are left with Morales.
Of course, that is only if a team is looking for power. That might be where Morales has pretty much overplayed his hand. Last season, only eight squads trotted the same player out to DH more than 300 at bats. That leaves the other half of the league that basically has uses the DH as a platoon spot. If Morales is wanting Billy Butler-type money, than that means he needs to see Billy Butler-type playing time. Of those eight teams, three of them need to replace their DH, or find people to collectively fill 550 or so at bats, and that is only if they wish to use a full-time DH.
We can upgrade that to four for fun just because Carlos Beltran was terrible for the New York Yankees last season and you never know how deep the pocketbook runs. So four teams: the Yankees (most likely not), the Royals (possibly going the way of the perma-DH buffalo), the Orioles (only if they choose to maintain a full-time DH) and the White Sox.
A betting man would guess that Morales probably isn't going to get a multi-year deal. A betting man also might guess that at the start of the season next year, Morales will once again be without a team. Things are different this year because a team signing Morales wouldn't sacrifice a draft pick like it would have in 2014 because of the qualifying offer. So there is that attraction, but when it comes to a multi-year deal for Morales -- that is about it.