Wetmore: Reported Kendrys Morales agreement a good sign for Twins fans
MINNEAPOLIS - The Twins made a bold move Saturday, agreeing to terms with free agent slugger Kendrys Morales, according to media reports. The Twins said through a spokesman that they don't have any planned announcements Saturday, which likely means Morales still must pass a physical for the deal to becomes official. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was first to report the agreement. Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reported that it's a one-year deal worth prorated $12 million, which means Morales will earn roughly $7.6 million the rest of the season.
Morales is a switch hitter with power whose value comes from his bat. In 2013 for the Mariners, Morales had 131 plate appearances as a first baseman, and 523 as the DH. He hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs. He played in 156 games, including 152 starts.
In May of 2010, Morales hit a walk-off grand slam for the Angels and broke his leg at home plate in the celebration with teammates after rounding the bases. That wiped out his entire 2011 season. Since returning in 2012, Morales has hit .275/.329/.457 with 45 home runs in 1,179 plate appearances.
This is a good sign for Twins fans. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. It means the Twins are willing to spend. We already knew that to an extent -- Minnesota offered contracts to free agents like A.J. Pierzynski, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Rajai Davis. Those free agents turned down the Twins, and to what extent Minnesota was willing to spend wasn't clear. While $7.6 million won't break the bank, it shows that the Twins are willing to pay to upgrade their roster, and this signing certainly does that. The popular narrative from Twins followers is that the Twins are cheap and unwilling to spend. While they don't have the financial resources to outspend -- or even compete -- with a team like the L.A. Dodgers, they have shown they're willing to spend to be competitive.
2. Since it is reportedly a one-year contract, it can be viewed as a win-now move. The Twins are hanging around .500 and have a tough stretch of the schedule upcoming. While it's way too early in the season to look at the standings and make many meaningful observations, the Twins entered Saturday trailing AL Central-leading Detroit by 5 games, and just 2 ½ games back in the Wild Card race.
3. It shows that the Twins place a premium on high draft picks. Morales played for the Seattle Mariners in 2013 on a one-year contract and he declined a qualifying offer of $14.1 million this offseason. That meant any team that signed him would have to give the Mariners a compensatory draft pick in return. That's why he's been unemployed until now. In most cases, the compensatory pick would have been a first round selection. But since the Minnesota picked in the top-10 of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, its first rounder was protected. The Twins would have parted ways with their second round selection if they signed Morales this offseason. They would not have had the opportunity to draft Louisville flamethrowing closer Nick Burdi. Whether he pans out or not remains to be seen, but the Twins made the decision to hold on to a high-value draft pick and will roll the dice with Burdi.
With the draft wrapping up Saturday, the timing of the signing is no coincidence. Now, there is no compensation pick attached.
Signing Morales should mean the Twins have their everyday DH, since he hit righties and lefties almost equally well in 2013. For his career, he has been a better hitter against right-handed pitchers.
This could mean the end of the line for Jason Kubel with the Twins. He hit well for about 10 days to start the season but his production since the second week of April has been dreadful. He no longer hits for power, he's struggled to get on base, he's not a good outfielder and he's not fast enough to be an asset on the bases. Frankly, in terms of production, Kubel is wasting a roster spot right now.
One would guess Morales will need plate appearances in the minors before he joins the Twins. As soon as he's ready, the Twins likely no longer will have a use for Kubel.