The Royals signed their first free agent from another ball-club this off-season, adding designated hitter Kendrys Morales on a two-year contract on the last day of the Winter Meetings. According to Jon Heyman, the two-year deal is worth $17 million guaranteed with incentives that could reach up to $18.5 million.
The 31-year old Cuban-born Morales is a switch-hitter who had a career worst season last year, hitting .218/.274/.338 with 8 HR 42 RBI in 401 plate appearances between the Twins and Mariners. Morales did not sign until June last year after rejected a Qualifying Offer, but finding few teams willing to give him a multi-year deal. Morales is a career .271/.324/.460 hitter in eight Major League seasons with the Angels, Mariners, and Twins. His best year came in 2009 when he hit .306/.355/.569 with 34 HR 108 RBI. Morales had put up an OPS+ off 119 or greater in every full Major League season until last year. Steamer projects Morales to hit .259/.316/.421 with 14 HR 46 RBI and 0.3 WAR next season.
The signing runs contrary to the notion the Royals were looking to keep the designated hitter spot open to rotate hitters in and out. Morales can only play first base, and will likely almost exclusively hit at designated hitter for the Royals.