Kendrys Morales isn’t a true substitute for either Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, but the Toronto Blue Jays could have certainly done a lot worse
I may be alone on this, but I’m looking forward to the addition of Kendrys Morales to the Toronto Blue Jays. He won’t entirely compensate for the potential losses of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion – both on the field and at the plate – but there’s a lot to like in Morales.
For one thing, Morales has been fairly productive throughout his career with the long ball despite playing in some of MLB’s stingiest ball parks. Over the last two seasons and across 312 games, he hit 22 home runs as a member of the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium (52 homes runs, at home and away, in total). This couples with 16 homes runs (31 in total) across 254 games at Safeco Field as a member of the Seattle Mariners between 2013 and 2014, and 22 homes runs (60 in total) across 464 games at Angel Stadium as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim between 2006 and 2012, to signal a player who can hit for power in any size of park. That should position Morales to easily reach new career-highs in the home run department at hitter-friendly Rogers Centre.
The flipside to these numbers is the fact Morales has always been a slightly better home run hitter on the road: he has 79 career home runs at home versus 83 on the road. In a sport where playing .500 on the road is considered a success, this dimension to his game shouldn’t be discounted. It puts him in the same league as Bautista (158-150) and Encarnacion (153-157) while putting him ahead of Troy Tulowitzki (123-94).
Another bonus is that Morales brings a respectable career batting average of .273 and career on-base percentage of .331 to Toronto. This instantly compares favourably against some of his new teammates – I’m thinking specifically about Kevin Pillar (.267, .303) and Justin Smoak (.223, .308) to name only two of the more obvious culprits.
Finally, Morales brings a championship pedigree to the Blue Jays. He won the World Series in 2015 with the Kansas City Royals, and he has played in 32 career playoff games. Morales has reached the playoffs four times in his 10-season career – a stat that, if we value it in Russell Martin, should carry some weight in Morales, too.
Now, if I’m being completely honest, there’s a fair bit to dislike about Morales as well. He isn’t a particularly good baserunner, and the Blue Jays are unlikely to call upon his defensive abilities on most days. Morales has also seen his share of serious injuries, but he’s been relatively healthy over the past two seasons.
Given the reasonableness of Morales’ contract – $33 million over three years – and combined with the fact he’ll be largely limited to DH duties and sandwiched somewhere in the lineup between Josh Donaldson, Tulowitzki, and Martin, the addition of Morales should ultimately prove a positive one for the Blue Jays despite the fact he’s not a true substitute for either Bautista or Encarnacion.
Life isn’t always fair, and you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well, you might find, you get what you need – an acceptable substitute.
Oh, yeah! Baby!
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Arturo Pardavila III under CC BY-SA 2.0
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