Blue Jays Sign Kendrys Morales, Questionably

Last winter, the Blue Jays found success by avoiding paying a big commitment to re-sign David Price, instead spreading their money around to bring back Marco Estrada and add J.A. Happ to the rotation, each of whom pitched better than Price did in 2016. So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that they may just be deciding to go that route again.

With Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, the Jays have two DH-type players that they could have signed to much more lucrative long-term deals, but Morales presents a much cheaper option, giving the team the flexibility to spend the extra $40 or $50 million on an outfielder, bullpen upgrades, or both. Instead of putting their money into one better player, the Jays look like they’re again going to bet on depth.

In general, I think that plan can often work out, especially if you have some serious holes on the roster that need addressing, as the Jays do. In practice, though, I’m not sure if I’m as excited about spending $33 million on Kendrys Morales as part of a spread-things-around approach.

For reference, here’s where Morales ranked in our Top 50 free agent rankings, and the write-up I noted when guessing that even at 2/$22M, I wouldn’t be a big fan of the expected price.

Contract Estimate
Type Years AAV Total
Dave Cameron 2 $11.0 M $22.0 M
Avg Crowdsource 2 $9.7 M $17.3 M
Median Crowdsource 2 $10.0 M $20.0 M
2017 Steamer Forecast
34 560 8.2% 19.8% .265 .330 .457 .336 109 2.3 -14.0 0.7

If all he really had to do was hit, Morales would still be a useful piece, but since he then has to try and run after he makes contact, Morales remains an overrated player; his lack of ability to move at human speed renders even his one-dimension of value less worthwhile than it seems. Thirty-four-year-old designated hitters who can’t run aren’t worth much, so even these modest contract forecasts are probably overpays.

I know it’s easy to say the Jays are paying for Morales’ bat and not his legs, but the fact that it’s still so difficult to knock him in once he gets on base makes his offensive production less valuable than his batting line looks like. Last year, he was worth just +2.3 runs above average as an offensive player once you include baserunning, and for a DH, being barely above average offensively means you’re barely above replacement level.

So, yeah, $33 million for the age 34-36 seasons of a decent hitter who can’t run seems like not a great use of funds to me. The team could still make this plan worthwhile if they spend the savings on a quality regular or a couple of good role players, but Morales himself just isn’t that good.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Baron Samedi
Baron Samedi

Shades of Billy Butler