Much of what the Toronto Blue Jays have to do this winter is made more difficult by having Kendrys Morales on the roster
The Toronto Blue Jays have a lot of work to do this offseason. They have stated a goal of getting younger and more versatile. Those things are not easy to do in the context of their other stated goal, which is competing in 2018. Sometimes, younger means making room for prospects. The idea of that mightn’t exactly scream competitive. It smacks of a step back. In order to avoid such a move, Ross Atkins and co. will likely need to get creative.
That creativity will need to come in the form of what I have called the new ‘market inefficiency’ (trademark pending). Teams that have players who are capable with the bat, but can be put in multiple positions are at a major advantage over other teams. Think about the Astros and Marwin Gonzalez. Think about the Rays (and then the Cubs) and Ben Zobrist, the Dodgers and Chris Taylor. These teams have pieces others do not.
The Blue Jays are one of those teams who are at a disadvantage thanks to having Kendrys Morales.
Before we even get into the roster’s disadvantage, it is worth exploring how Morales presents problems for this team by being in the lineup. Now, this is not to bash the player, or the decision to sign him. He is a switch hitting power hitter and those don’t exactly grow on trees. He hit 28 HR and drove in 85 RBI for Toronto last year. There is value there. However, he presents a lot of problems that need to be considered. He put up -0.6 fWAR last season, which makes his 28 HR less significant.
Morales is slow. We know this. But, it has to be mentioned here. If he gets on base, he creates problems for those behind him. He is like one of those guys in your beer league who stretch a triple into a double. That ends up costing the team runs. He also grounded into 22 double plays in 2017. Now, that isn’t his career high (24 in 2015), but it is still frustrating. To no one’s surprise, Fangraphs lists his Spd at 1.1. As powerful as his bat may be, his offense was rated at -11.7.
That’s not even the worst part of having Morales on the roster. What is worse is that there is literally no other place to put him. He can only fill the DH spot. In an emergency, he could play first base, but he has been used there sparingly over the last few seasons. And, with Justin Smoak in the fold, why would you even put Morales there? Smoak has emerged as a legit switch hitting power hitter who CAN play defense, which makes Morales redundant. Also, with a full time DH, the Blue Jays have no flexibility to give guys like Josh Donaldson or Troy Tulowitzki days off.
Instead of using the DH spot as an opportunity to have another everyday position player circulate in and out, the Blue Jays are stuck with only one option. So, instead of having an advantage over other teams, Toronto is at a distinct disadvantage with Morales.
This all sounds very harsh, but reality can be sometimes. At the time Morales was signed, the Blue Jays didn’t want to miss out on a power bat. Perhaps they rushed. But, let’s be clear, when millions of dollars are flying around and you have to beat 29 other teams to the punch on a decision that has to happen in the blink of an eye, signing Morales to move to the AL East wasn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps some of you might feel that Edwin Encarnacion would have been more worth the wait. And, maybe you’re right. But, even if Edwin had re-signed in Toronto, the point of this post would still apply. Edwin would be a DH who could play first base and that’s about it. His flexibility would decrease with each year of his deal, creating the exact same problem this front office finds themselves facing right now.
How they manage to figure this out will be fascinating. Is there a way? The easiest answer from those who frequent MLB The Show is to trade Morales as soon as possible. But, if someone like me can point out all of the problems Morales presents, surely someone in a front office, who is vastly more insightful than I am, would hang up the phone when Morales is mentioned. Trading away this problem is not exactly easy to do.
If it were, there are many ways to start from scratch and fix the flexibility and versatility of the Blue Jays roster. Free agency and the trade route presents varying options, most of which are better served discussing in a different post. That said, without Morales, Atkins has a lot more wiggle room to improve his roster. But, the reality is that this problem is infinitely more difficult because of all of the other problems Morales brings. It is not going to be easy to solve. That’s why Atkins is where he is and we are where we are; he is more equipped than we are. But, even with his knowledge and skill set, this might be one of the more difficult problems he faces this winter.
Kendrys Morales has value. He is a threat in the middle of a batting order. To say otherwise would be silly. Signing him wasn’t the worst decision a front office can make. Really. But, now that he is on this roster, things are made more difficult this offseason. In the context of stated goals for 2018, Morales presents major problems. If the front office hadn’t stated very clear, simple goals for this coming season, we mightn’t give Morales another thought. But, since Atkins has a stated mandate, Morales isn’t just an obstacle on the base paths. He presents more problems than that.
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