The Royals made their first big move of the off-season on Thursday, signing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a two-year $17 million contract, an it was greeted with a chorus of applause from Royals faithful. Or not.
So what did we get?
Kendrys Morales is Billy Butler if Billy Butler hit less doubles, struck out more, walked less and had a catastrophic leg injury.— Brian (@BrianMcGannon) December 11, 2014
You know how terrible J.P. Arencibia was for the Rangers last season? JPA's OPS in 2014 was only 4 points lower than Kendrys Morales's.— Adam J. Morris (@lonestarball) December 8, 2014
wRC+, 2009-2013: Kendrys Morales-125 Billy Butler-126 Victor Martinez-122— Hunter SantaYules (@HunterSamuels) December 11, 2014
Steve Martano at Beyond the Box Score writes the Royals just got an inferior version of Billy Butler.
There is some upside due to a the lowest BABIP of Morales's career. In 2014, he was extraordinarily unlucky, hitting for a career low for .244 BABIP. Raising that number to his career and approximate league average of .297, and suddenly you have a player who can hit .270, well above .246 which was the designated hitter league average in 2014. Even if he were to hit .270 or more, the offensive issues remain, as Morales sported a 6.7% walk-rate in 2014 — nearly identical to Billy Butler's 6.8%, meaning the .270 is mostly an empty average, and he will neither get on base often, nor hit for power.
Craig Brown at Royals Authority is not impressed.
First, his line drive rate – which is an indication of how well he barrels the ball – has dropped each year since returning from his leg injury. Last year, it bottomed out at 17.8 percent, which can be used as a clue to explain why his batting average on balls in play was .244 last summer. The line drive rate isn’t the only cause – they don’t go hand in hand – but I thought it was worth pointing out. I would expect his BABIP to rebound as he’s usually around .300. Also, his HR/FB rate last year was a career worst 7.9 percent. That’s well off his career rate of 15.2 percent. Like his BABIP, I would bet on his home run totals to improve in 2015. And I’m thinking that’s what the Royals are betting on, too.
So the question is, was 2014 the harbinger of decline for Morales, or was it an aberration?
Hunter Samuels of Kings of Kauffman doesn't think its a total disaster.
He’s a switch hitter, although he’s been better as a lefty (117 wRC+) than as a righty (96 wRC+). The team should see him collect more plate appearances from his stronger side, which is nice. He still has some power from the right side (.159 ISO), although he’s more of an out machine, with an OBP near .300....
This deal is a risk, and I do think there were better options available (and there still are), but if Morales is healthy, he may provide some value to the Royals offense. The time away from baseball could have been such a big contributing factor to his poor performance, which would suggest a full offseason of training with the team could be a huge help. He is 31, though, meaning improvement is far from a guarantee. Hopefully 2014 wasn’t the start of a decline, because if it was, the Royals just handed out a lot of money for no real upgrade.
Jayson Stark at ESPN calls the Royals losers for their Winter Meetings performance.
But if we're going to judge the Royals strictly on the basis of what they've done, it's impossible to keep them out of the losers column. They've lost Billy Butler and Shields to free agency. They haven't been able to find a free-agent starting pitcher willing to take their money. They haven't been able to sign or deal for a right fielder. They replaced Butler by handing $17 million to a guy (Kendrys Morales) who had a .612 OPS and slugged .338 last season. So there's no getting around this. They're a worse team now than they were the night of Game 7. Sorry
This is from September, but Jeff Sullivan didn't even think Morales would get a Major League contract after his disappointing season.
So, last offseason, coming off a productive year, Morales couldn’t find himself a home as a glove-less DH. At that point, though, he was at least a designated hitter who could hit some. Now he’ll be a free agent again, and he’s a year older, and he didn’t learn how to play defense in the meantime, and his offense has been dreadful. 2014 for Morales has been a complete disaster, and at this point it’s hard to envision him signing for guaranteed money. He’ll receive plenty of interest, and come February he’ll be in somebody’s camp, but Morales isn’t worth signing as a bench guy because he has no defensive flexibility. And he’s not worth signing as a regular DH because he hasn’t been the "hitter" part of the title for a year. He has to prove himself again, and I have to think the best he’ll find is a minor-league contract with a spring invitation.
So, at least we won't have Billy Butler clogging this roster anymore, right?
The Royals will be paying Kendrys Morales more annually for the next two years than they paid Billy Butler annually the last three years.— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) December 11, 2014
Well kudos to Kendry's agent after last year's off-season debacle.
Rival evaluators surprised that Kendrys Morales got two years and $17 million from KC. Good for him.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 11, 2014
Bad for us.
I have to admit, I'm not sure I'd give Kendrys Morales 2/17 over Barry Bonds 2/17. In 2015.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 11, 2014
Looks like Dayton back-loaded a contract again.
@royalsreview for Morales, looks like $6.5 million in 2015 & $9 million for 2016, so need to update the spreadsheet: http://t.co/66kMQHVJ09— Sean Ludwig (@seanludwig) December 11, 2014
Just eye-ballin' things, it looks like the Royals have about $110 million committed to their 2016 roster already. More if they exercise Jeremy Guthrie's option.
#Royals Yost said yesterday he loves the 'floating DH,' now with Morales, one source says with a laugh, "It's landlocked now."— Josh Vernier (@JoshVernier610) December 11, 2014
Well, at least we won't have to see Christian Colon DH in some weird rotation.
Sam Mellinger of the Star thinks Morales has some upside, but he writes the Royals may have misread the market.
If the Royals had known this is how the market would shake out, they probably would have picked up a $12 million option for Butler in 2015 instead of paying him a $1 million buyout. Two years and $17 million for Morales is roughly what many thought Butler would get in free agency.
Moore has hit on these short-term, make-good situations before, perhaps most notably with Melky Cabrera in 2011 and Ervin Santana in 2013.
The Royals forced their own hand in this one, letting Butler walk in what now looks like an initial misread of the market. They have a new and full-time DH after years of saying they didn’t want a full-time DH.
Grant Brisbee grades the signing a "C".
It's a passing grade, at least. I don't mind taking a chance on Morales to DH, and it's not like the money is onerous and restricting. But you try giving a grade higher than C to anything involving a player like Morales. He's the purest 2.0 grade point average in the game right now.
2015 KANSAS CITY ROYALS: A PASSING GRADE. Come watch the action!
This is the top comment on @royalsreview on the story about the Kendrys Morales signing. I feel you, KC. pic.twitter.com/ucyQAjAMZB— Joe Veyera (@JoeVeyera) December 11, 2014
Kendrys Morales anagrams: Dressmaker only! Dreamy Snorkels Messy or Rankled? Marked: Senor Sly Naked Lorry Mess O, Sly Remarks, Ned!— Royals Review (@royalsreview) December 11, 2014
Cheer me up J-Guts.
Kendrys Morales, grab you a bat & a napkin! Welcome to KC! #BBQ— Jeremy Guthrie (@TheRealJGuts) December 11, 2014
Well at least somebody's happy.