This has been floating around the Twitter-webs the last couple of days. I only just was able to pick myself up off the floor to post.
A sleeper team interested in Morales, as confirmed by a source, are the Royals - love that lineup with him in the middle of it !!— Jim Duquette (@Jim_Duquette) January 2, 2014
A brief primer on Morales:
He was traded to the Seattle Mariners last winter (for Jason Vargas!) and put up a slash line of .227/.336/.449 with a .342 wOBA and 116 RC+. All numbers are well off his peak season of 2009. He was off to a fine start in 2010 before he shattered his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run and missed all of 2011. Since his injury, he has played roughly 500 innings in the field, all at first base. Morales received, and declined, a qualifying offer from the M's. He turns 31 next June and is represented by Scott Boras.
And the Royals are a "sleeper" team?
Let's review why this makes no sense:
-- If the Royals sign Morales, they will lose their first round draft pick. I suppose it's possible, but to do so would seemingly go against everything Dayton Moore stands for when it comes to building his team. Granted, his player development system kind of stinks, but losing that draft pick seems kind of huge. Not only do they lose the pick, they lose the money associated with said selection. That limits their creativity in the draft. And that's like the one area where the Royals have been really successful over the last few seasons.
-- Billy Butler is in the way. OK, this one is kind of big. (No pun intended.) If the Royals sign Morales, he's not going to play at first base. That's Eric Hosmer's spot. So the only other "position" for him is designated hitter. And that's where Butler lives. I suppose the Royals could trade Butler. My God, he's only come up in trade rumors almost every other day this winter. And we all know that Dayton doesn't value OBP. And we all know that Billy is lazy and clogs the bases. (If you're new here - or slow - that previous sentence was sarcasm.)
The market - as Boras and Morales are currently figuring out - for designated hitters doesn't seem to be as robust as it is for middle relievers and fourth starters. Teams value defense. Go figure.
Butler is under contract for 2014 at $8 million. As the Royals prepare for a record-high payroll, that is a good number for them to have on the books for a DH that can actually produce. Steamer projects Butler at 2.4 fWAR next summer. For the Royals to add Morales, they will certainly have to go higher. MLB Trade Rumors projected a two-year, $28 million deal for Morales. Is Morales $6 million better than Butler? I think the answer to that is an emphatic, "Hell, no."
If teams aren't lining up for the services of Morales at $14 million per year, what's the market for Butler at $8 million? Probably better, but I would have to think it's not overwhelming. Of course, he could be part of a package deal where the Royals throw together a couple of prospects along with Butler for a front-line (or close to front-line) starter. That could happen I suppose.
But what's the timeline on something like that? You don't sign Morales first. That kills any kind of leverage you have in negotiations because you absolutely cannot have both Morales and Butler on this roster at the same time. Yet if you deal Butler, you open the spot at DH and then you throw the advantage to Boras. Yeah... I don't think that's a position Dayton Moore should be in. It's tricky. It's complicated. Is it something Moore can pull off without getting fleeced on one side?
-- Scott Boras is probably up to something. The guy is a great agent who will do anything to generate interest in his clients. Think about this... There have been rumors the Royals are willing to move Butler. They are seen in the industry as being aggressive and in a position to "go for it" in 2014. It makes sense that the representative for a player such as Morales would send a signal that a team like the Royals are interested. For all the crazy, it's not difficult to believe that Dayton Moore has some interest. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But what Boras is doing is trying to create a market for a player tied to draft pick compensation, who is one dimensional and will come with a high contract. Tough sell. But made easier when it appears there is already interest.
Morales has been linked with the Mets - which I don't buy - and the Orioles. If the O's decide to spend some money, I could see Morales landing in Baltimore. They already have Chris Davis at first, but their DH options seem to include Nolan Reimold and possibly Steve Pearce. For them, getting Morales would be an upgrade. For the Royals, not so much.
I just can't give credence to the Royals as a "sleeper" team on Morales. Given the situation and the people involved, it just doesn't make sense.