The Toronto Blue Jays’ roster is somewhat restricted by having Kendrys Morales in the DH spot. But, what if they didn’t?
The Toronto Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales to a 3 year/ $33M to give them power in the middle of their lineup after Edwin Encarnacion departed. With one season in Toronto under his belt, several issues have shown themselves, making this arguably the biggest mistake the current front office has made in their short tenure. Now, some will say that there have been other mistakes and still others will say that signing Morales wasn’t actually a mistake.
I could agree with the latter. In the context of the situation the front office was in (remember that Edwin turned down 4yrs/$80 from this front office), they needed some power. The fact that Morales is a switch hitter and someone whose power very well could have played up in the AL East, this signing wasn’t the worst idea in the world. It’s not like the B.J. Ryan deal. That said, the consequences of the deal make you second guess it.
Firstly, Morales is slow. He grounded into 22 double plays last season. And, it’s not like the front office is surprised by this revelation. He saw 20 and 24 in the previous two seasons respectively. He also struck out a lot. Like a lot! His 132 whiffs in 2017 saw him tied for 53rd in baseball, which is not obscene, but when the rest of the offense consists of Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, Luke Maile et al, the big bats need to be big bats.
The strike outs were especially frustrating since everyone on the planet knew what was coming when Morales had two strikes on him. Baseball Savant says that Morales has a “very aggressive approach at the plate” with breaking stuff to go with an “above average likelihood to swing and miss”, which is a bad combination. The following chart from Baseball Savant backs up the gut feeling we all have:
When he has two strikes on him, or his behind, he’s getting the breaking balls. He knows they’re coming and he still whiffs. He swung at the curve 47.56% of the time and hit .220 against the pitch last year.
The speed that Morales doesn’t bring and his inability to lay off the breaking ball are not even the most difficult part of having him in the lineup. The real issue is that he takes up the DH spot. Despite the club trying him on occasion (100 innings) at first base (and his 1 DRS), he is not a first baseman. He does have value as a switch hitting DH, but he hampers any kind of roster flexibility.
And, that is the real point of this exercise. I know, it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day. Morales is a Blue Jay and he is the DH. But, what if he weren’t?
The Blue Jays spent the offseason gathering pieces that could fit into multiple positions. While covering themselves for potential injuries was obviously priority number one, they actually set themselves up nicely to utilize the DH spot…well, if there were no Morales that is. With an empty DH spot, the Blue Jays could afford to use all of their pieces for different reasons.
John Gibbons could base his line up on matchups more often. But, he could also be proactive with the lineup to keep his stars healthy. We’ve seen Gibby use Russell Martin in the field last season to give him a bit of a rest from behind the plate. What if he could do this and slide Josh Donaldson to the DH spot? That would give two guys a day (or two) of rest instead of just one of them. Heck, Devon Travis could DH and Yangervis Solarte could take some reps at second. Steve Pearce, Curtis Granderson could also use the days DHing. Whenever Troy Tulowitzki returns, perhaps he could be eased into action by using the DH spot. In short, the DH spot is oh, so valuable to an aging, somewhat injury prone lineup like Toronto’s. And, yet, Kendrys Morales will be occupying this valuable position.
I want to be clear. The point of this piece is not to slag on Morales. He is what he is. And, if we’re being honest, removing his bat from the lineup would probably cause quiet a bit of harm. The point is also not to dump on the front office for the move. Morales is what he is and the situation is what it is.
But, sometimes, it is fun to think about an alternative universe where certain situations existed. If Morales weren’t on this roster, it would open things up for some interesting possibilities and allow for some fun roster tinkering. But, he is on this roster and the Blue Jays will have to do their best to work in their new found versatility. The way guys get injured, maybe this won’t even be an issue. With all of the injury question marks, there exists a very real possibility that more than once this seasons, we will be thankful that Kendrys Morales is a Blue Jay.
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