Archive for July, 2014

Mariners get Kendrys against his will

The Mariners extended the qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales last offseason. He declined. The Mariners offered him a deal during the season, including a possible 3/$30 million deal. He declined.

But for Kendrys, he has no choice now. You are a Mariner and YOU WILL LIKE IT.

The Mariners flipped Stephen Pryor to the Minnesota Twins for Kendrys, a move that makes sense considering the Mariners need for a bat. The struggles of Corey Hart, Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison at 1B/DH have been well-documented, and with a legitimate shot at the second wild card spot and the playoffs (Fangraphs projections give the Mariners a 29.1% chance for the Wild Card), the Mariners need to improve an offense that is tied for last in the American League on a park-adjusted basis.

Here is the problem with this deal:

Yeah, Morales has been terrible this season. Atrocious. Abysmal. His walks are down and he has just one home run in 162 plate appearances. There is no guarantee that he will be able to hit this season, and if the Mariners are getting another below replacement level bat, then this deal means nothing at all.

Luckily, Morales has been consistent over the past couple years putting up a 119 and 118 WRC+ (a statistic that encompasses all offensive contributions and adjusts them for ballpark factors) in two home ballparks that favor pitchers. Despite Safeco’s reputation as a pitchers park, it actually is decent for left-handed hitters (see Seager, Kyle and Branyan, Russell), which is exactly the opposite of Target Field in Minnesota — where left-handed power goes to die — unless you are David Ortiz.

For further positive spin (a new thing for a Mariners fan this year), Kendrys missed all of spring training and the first two months of the season because of his weird qualifying offer and the generally correct league-wide consensus that a bat-only first baseman is not worth a big financial commitment. 162 plate appearances is a small sample size, so perhaps Morales will go back to mashing at an above average league rate just in time for the Mariners playoff push. Zips and Steamer seem to think this is true, as the systems project Kendrys for 0.2 WAR and 0.5 WAR respectively.

This trade is kind of like the Carter Capps/Logan Morrison deal in the offseason. A move that I still like despite Morrison’s struggles. Giving up a two-pitch maximum reliever for a hitter in his mid-20s with projectable power is a no-brainer, and Morrison has looked good at the plate for awhile now without much to show for it (he has a super low .231 BABIP despite a normal LD% for his career). Zips projects him for just 0.1 WAR, with Steamer more optimistic at 0.5 — basically the same as Kendrys’s projection. Losing a relief pitcher like Capps (who already succumbed to Tommy John this season) that was struggling with his velocity and possesses a slider with a large platoon split is not something to cry about. It is amazing that this Larry Stone article from two years ago is already outdated, though.

Because of this trade, however, I would anticipate Hart to be designated for assignment. Not only does he have balky knees, but the cost of the DFA would be minimal considering his $5 million deal was incentive-laden. Unless the incentives were to put up a 78 WRC+, I doubt Hart will be receiving the full $5 million. Although Hart still has a chance to turn it around, the clock is certainly ticking.

The Mariners still need an outfielder. Putting James Jones and Endy Chavez and Dustin Ackley on the field is a request for other teams to pass you in the standings. Until Saunders gets back, this is one of the worst outfield situations in the MLB. The Morales move does not solve this problem. But the move is low-risk with potential for some upside. The Mariners need all of the hitting help they can get.

Marlon Byrd, Ben Zobrist, Justin Ruggiano and Morales’ now former teammate Josh Willingham are still available, and although there are roadblocks to acquiring all four (Willingham has made it clear that he does not want to go to Safeco either so maybe the Mariners should just trade for him too. The Morales/Willingham interviews will not be awkward AT ALL), one of these players could combine with the Kendrys move to push the needle enough toward a Mariners wild card berth. Maybe then we can see endless celebrations that totally aren’t sexual at all.