You will be a Mariner whether you like it or not, Kendrys.
The #Mariners have acquired 1B/DH Kendrys Morales from the Twins in exchange for RHP Stephen Pryor. Morales will report to the club tomorrow— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 24, 2014
This is shocking news in that it came out of nowhere, but in other ways it's extremely predictable because it's just so Mariners. The M's wanted Morales badly through the offseason, first risking paying him upwards of $14.1 million with a qualifying offer, then offering him multiple contracts, reportedly including one mid-season before he signed with the Twins. For the sake of all the evidence available, it appears that Kendrys Morales did not want to return to Seattle at all, eventually signing with the Twins for $7.4 million.
Now he's back, and the price is Stephen Pryor, who was nice enough to conduct a chat with us earlier in the year. The Mariners have a good surplus of relievers, and Pryor hasn't been effective in AAA since his return from injury. He simply isn't the reliever he was before, sitting 91-92 mph instead of the massive, flame-throwing beast he once was. You can't argue with the cost, but you can certainly argue with the player he brought in return.
Morales has been pretty terrible this year, but that's partially to be expected, given how long he went without facing live pitching. He's shown signs of coming out of his slump, but he's still got a miserable 57 wRC+ through 162 PA, good for a whopping -0.9 WAR. Optimistically, he's shaken off the rust with the Twins and is ready to roll with the Mariners. Pessimistically, he's going to be as bad as Corey Hart, or even worse. This is a purchase based on familiarity and optimism, not performance. At best, it's a very minor upgrade to the offense. At worst, it's a complete waste of resources.
Fangraphs projects Morales to be worth 0.5 WAR the rest of the year, which is pretty low impact for something so optimistic. The Mariners weren't going to use Pryor this year and possibly ever. Now, Morales probably spells the end of Corey Hart, Justin Smoak, or Logan Morrison. It also means that we aren't seeing Jesus Montero in any significant role any time soon.
This is super weird and all too familiar. The Mariners did this with Russell Branyan a few years ago, trading for him the year after he departed in free agency, and their obsession with Morales has culminated the exact same way. This isn't the splash any of us wanted, but the M's didn't blow any of their talent ammo to get Morales. The risk is basically in wasting money, or letting Corey Hart/Justin Smoak go before they turn it around. Corey Hart is kind of broken and Justin Smoak will never be good, but Kendrys Morales has been terrible. Even projecting optimism, the difference between the Morales and the batch of Mariners he's about to replace will be minuscule.
Morales proves the Mariners front office aren't completely penny-pinching at the deadline, but it also just ate up some of the available cash for other acquisitions, since we all know the pot isn't bottomless. It's money that could have been spent a lot better on somebody like Josh Willingham. The Mariners just acquired the wrong player from the Twins simply because they already knew him.