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Jays Sign Kendry Morales to a 3-Year, $33 Million Contract
#1
Encarnacion’s return to Blue Jays unlikely after Morales signing


Shi Davidi   November 11, 2016, 5:46 PM

TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays began retooling their lineup by reaching agreement on a $33-million, three-year contract with Kendrys Morales pending a physical, a move that that essentially parts ways with Edwin Encarnacion and sets up Justin Smoak to see plenty of action at first base.

The deal, as reported by various sources on Friday, comes after a late push to re-sign Encarnacion, a franchise icon, fell short at the GM meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. Multiple industry sources indicated the Blue Jays’ extended an offer with a deadline to their slugger and when it was rejected, they moved on to their alternatives.

Speaking in general terms Tuesday, general manager Ross Atkins said “offers often times come on and off tables.”
Morales, 33, will replace some of the lost pop but is a DH only, having played only 10 games and 74 innings defensively in 2016, split evenly between first base and the outfield. A switch-hitter, the Cuban is a good contact hitter who puts the ball in play, slashing .263/.327/.468 with 30 homers and 93 RBIs for the Kansas City Royals, but he doesn’t walk much and runs like a Molina.

Still, as a switch-hitter, he’ll provide some balance for a lineup that needs it as well as more batting average, as he’s a career .273 hitter and batted .290 in 2015. He also has a reputation as a strong and positive clubhouse presence.

Given that the Blue Jays also reached agreement with 23-year-old Cuban infielder Lourdes Gurriel on Friday, his presence should help the upper-level of the farm system prospect transition. A rival evaluator described Gurriel as an interesting bat without a defensive position who’ll need some time in the minors.

The expectation is he opens up at double-A or triple-A, and he gives the Blue Jays a badly needed infusion of young talent at the upper levels of the farm system without being penalized under international spending rules.

Morales also satisfies the now and later needs of the Blue Jays by minimizing their financial exposure over the next three years and leaving them more room to spend this year. Factor in that if Morales is due $11 million in 2017 – the contract’s structure wasn’t immediately known – the Blue Jays would have $117.3 million in guarantees to 10 players and $123.2 million if you include the arbitration projections for Marcus Stroman, Aaron Loup and Darwin Barney.

That leaves them wiggle room to pursue outfield corner help if Jose Bautista declines the qualifying offer as expected, and perhaps a right-handed complement to Smoak at first base such as the versatile Steve Pearce.

Regardless, the all-but-finalized departure of Encarnacion is going to be wildly unpopular, especially given his steadiness in the clubhouse and desire to remain with the Blue Jays. He made his feelings for the city clear with his actions, rather than his words, when he left the field slowly after the final home game of the regular season, and spoke passionately of Toronto after the club’s elimination in the ALCS.

Encarnacion’s walk-off homer in the wild-card game against Baltimore earned itself a place in franchise lore, while the fan base embraced his elbow-up parrot walk during his home run trots.

While Morales is only the first piece of the puzzle, a sizable segment is going to have to be sold on this retooling given how some had made Encarnacion’s re-signing an article of faith for the club.

In an interview with Sportsnet earlier this week, club president and CEO Mark Shapiro made it clear there’s a balance to be drawn between a player’s past meaning to a club and his future worth.

"It’s never easy to answer that question and there’s always some premium placed on players that have historical impact and whose character and talent we know well," said Shapiro. "You’re balancing that premium with the understanding that those players on a losing team have limited value or meaning to anyone."

The same holds true for the players left behind, as the Blue Jays start crafting a new look for the 2017 season.
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#2
Bye EE.
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#3
This looks like way too much money to a player with a one-dimensional skill set. Morales was pretty awful hitting breaking pitches this year and I imagine if pitchers attack him like they did to 2nd half Michael Saunders, he might be in for a rough year.

Maybe they see something in his career high 41% hard hit rate from this season to suggest he's made an adjustment. But high line drive and HR/FB rates can fluctuate pretty easily. If they regress and his BABIP remains where it was in 2016, I don't see how he'll be much of a threat at the plate.

I wouldn't have minded the addition to the Jays at a lower cost/term. But his contract suggests that he'll have to be an every day player for the next 3 years which is a risky bet to make.
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#4
I don't mind it at all. 1.5 WAR and he's earned his money, which I think he'll likely produce if healthy.


They are actually paying Morales less than what San Diego is paying Upton to play for the Jays lol.
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#5
My concern is that say we also re-sign one of EE or Bautista (obviously we're not keeping both at this point). Picture this team in 2-3 years.

Morales is 33 with a 3 year deal.
Martin is 33 with 3 years left on his deal.
Tulo is 32 with 5 years left on his deal.

EE will be 34 by the start of next season, Bautista is 36. Both looking for long-term deals. Just wondering how this team will look in ~2018, 2019, etc. with all these older guys eating up tons of salary.
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#6
I have a hunch that Tulo may be moved sooner rather than later.  Its interesting that the Jays signed Gurriel Jr who primarily was a SS in Cuba. Might tip their hand a bit toward their thoughts on Tulo.

But even ignoring that there is enough reason to move him just looking at his contract and declining production.
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#7
(2016-11-15, 02:07 PM)Andrew Wrote: I have a hunch that Tulo may be moved sooner rather than later.  Its interesting that the Jays signed Gurriel Jr who primarily was a SS in Cuba. Might tip their hand a bit toward their thoughts on Tulo.

But even ignoring that there is enough reason to move him just looking at his contract and declining production.

Agreed. There are good arguments to be made that given the thin free agency class, this should up the value of unfavourable contracts in the trade market. Now would be the ideal time to unload guys like Martin + Tulo. It would mean essentially giving up on 2017 to a certain extent, but could pay-off rather quickly by giving us free agency flexibility going into 2018 with all that freed up money, + whatever pieces we get back for those two.
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#8
(2016-11-15, 01:35 PM)thebest41587 Wrote: I don't mind it at all. 1.5 WAR and he's earned his money, which I think he'll likely produce if healthy.

Not sure where you're getting 1.5 WAR from. Is there a projection system that's saying he'll be worth that in 2017?

I think it's more likely he'll settle in closer to his Steamer Projection of 0.9.

I imagine Russell Martin will need time off behind the plate and I'm not sure Morales will even be able to accrue the 600+ plate appearances he did with the Royals the past two years if Martin starts some at DH.

Looking at a larger sample size, Morales has compiled 3.5 fWAR over his past 5 seasons. If he averages that over the next 3 seasons the Jays will have just paid $16M per win on a free agent, which is about twice as much as last year's average.

Again, the Jays obviously see something in Morales for that money so I'm not writing him off. Seems like a needless risk though at this point.

(2016-11-15, 02:07 PM)Andrew Wrote: I have a hunch that Tulo may be moved sooner rather than later.  Its interesting that the Jays signed Gurriel Jr who primarily was a SS in Cuba. Might tip their hand a bit toward their thoughts on Tulo.

Oh I definitely think the Jays have been thinking and planning for a roster without Tulo. That contract isn't going to look any better and Gurriel might even give them an option at 2B should Travis continue to have seasons cut short by injury.

Richard Urena could also factor into their plans. He's a strong defensive SS and was promoted to AA this season at the age of 20. Gibbons even said earlier this season that he could see him as the heir to Tulo.
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#9
(2016-11-15, 04:29 PM)shadylane Wrote:
(2016-11-15, 01:35 PM)thebest41587 Wrote: I don't mind it at all. 1.5 WAR and he's earned his money, which I think he'll likely produce if healthy.

Not sure where you're getting 1.5 WAR from. Is there a projection system that's saying he'll be worth that in 2017?

I think it's more likely he'll settle in closer to his Steamer Projection of 0.9.

I imagine Russell Martin will need time off behind the plate and I'm not sure Morales will even be able to accrue the 600+ plate appearances he did with the Royals the past two years if Martin starts some at DH.

Looking at a larger sample size, Morales has compiled 3.5 fWAR over his past 5 seasons. If he averages that over the next 3 seasons the Jays will have just paid $16M per win on a free agent, which is about twice as much as last year's average.

Again, the Jays obviously see something in Morales for that money so I'm not writing him off. Seems like a needless risk though at this point.

(2016-11-15, 02:07 PM)Andrew Wrote: I have a hunch that Tulo may be moved sooner rather than later.  Its interesting that the Jays signed Gurriel Jr who primarily was a SS in Cuba. Might tip their hand a bit toward their thoughts on Tulo.

Oh I definitely think the Jays have been thinking and planning for a roster without Tulo. That contract isn't going to look any better and Gurriel might even give them an option at 2B should Travis continue to have seasons cut short by injury.

Richard Urena could also factor into their plans. He's a strong defensive SS and was promoted to AA this season at the age of 20. Gibbons even said earlier this season that he could see him as the heir to Tulo.

I just used 1.5 WAR (it's actually probably closer to 1.3 or 1.4) based on wins being worth roughly 8 million now, and that 1.5 WAR would be worth the 11 million average he'll receive. The cost of a win is not likely to go down either. 


This season is the only season of his career where he was healthy, that he didn't reach that level. Which isn't that surprising considering his horrible start. I'm guessing once he broke out of it in early June, he was worth close to 1.5 WAR over the final stretch of the season, hopefully that extended slump at the beginning of this season was a one time thing.
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#10
Ah, the cost per WAR thing. Gotcha.

Wasn't he healthy in 2014? I thought the time he missed was just due to his holdout. He was absolutely horrendous that year, worth negative 1.8 wins in less than 100 games.

I threw away Morales' April and May and calculated his WAR over his last 106 games this year. It indeed worked out close to 1.5 WAR - 1.8 actually. Although I'm not a big fan of just tossing aside two months of a player's sample unless there was a tangible adjustment made.

His BABIP was up a bit from June onward as was his HR/FB ratio, while his plate discipline remained at his career rate. The production was much better though and if that's the version the Jays get I'll obviously take it.
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#11
(2016-11-16, 02:10 PM)shadylane Wrote: Ah, the cost per WAR thing. Gotcha.

Wasn't he healthy in 2014? I thought the time he missed was just due to his holdout. He was absolutely horrendous that year, worth negative 1.8 wins in less than 100 games.

I threw away Morales' April and May and calculated his WAR over his last 106 games this year. It indeed worked out close to 1.5 WAR - 1.8 actually. Although I'm not a big fan of just tossing aside two months of a player's sample unless there was a tangible adjustment made.

His BABIP was up a bit from June onward as was his HR/FB ratio, while his plate discipline remained at his career rate. The production was much better though and if that's the version the Jays get I'll obviously take it.

Oh right, not really a hold out, but a victim of draft pick compensation IIRC. If he's the player he was in 2015 and most of 2016, he shouldn't hurt the Jays.
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