Kendrys Morales is set to become a free agent after this season. His agent, Scott Boras, raised some eyebrows in Seattle yesterday when an item from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports came out suggesting talks between the slugger and Mariners never got serious this summer.
Another part of the piece that drew attention was Rosenthal writing that Boras planned to market Morales as a hitter whose home numbers would vastly improve if he moved from Safeco Field. Now, I think Rosenthal does good work, so I’m not here to knock down his piece. But I decided to speak to Boras myself to get a clarification of exactly what’s gone on between the Mariners and Morales.
So, we spoke late last night and Boras told me that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik phoned him up and expressed an interest in doing a longer deal with Morales. At the time, they talked and Boras did relay what general financial ballpark he was looking for in terms of a deal. But the Mariners never made a formal offer.
Still, Boras did go to Morales on behalf of Zduriencik and asked whether he’d be interested in returning to Seattle next year. Morales told Boras he would indeed have interest and this was relayed to Zduriencik.
But as I said, no offer was made at the time, the July 31 and Aug. 31 trade deadlines came and went and Morales is still here. Still, if you remember what Zduriencik told us on July 31, it was that he’d be interested in keeping certain veterans here with the hope of enjoying an exclusive negotiating window with them after the season ended.
And when I spoke to Boras last night, he said he and Morales have yet to decide firmly on whether he’ll explore free agency. That part of the FOX story — that Morales was likely headed for free agency — was Rosenthal’s interpretation of where it’s headed . And I happen to agree with it. But there’s still a chance for Seattle to make an offer.
Boras told me the odds of anything happening in-season are slim and none. Which is exactly what Morales told us several weeks back.
But in that exclusive negotiating window, he and Morales will listen to what the Mariners are ready to propose. That whole marketing thing about Morales potentially hitting more home runs away from Safeco? Boras said it’s absolutely the case.
“A 20-homer season in Safeco is like a 30-homer season somewhere else,” he said.
Now, before you go all crazy on me, listen to how he qualifies that. Boras is well aware that the fences were moved in at Safeco and that Morales’s home/road splits aren’t that much different when it comes to power and home runs. In fact, his overall numbers are virtually idential in terms of OPS and his home runs/AB numbers are just a touch better away from Safeco.
But Boras told me he’s thinking more along the lines of comparing what Morales did next to what Adrian Beltre did when he left the Mariners and played home games at Feway Park and then at Rangers Ballpark. He isn’t thinking of comparing what Morales does at Safeco to what he might do at a pitcher-friendly park in Anaheim.
No, he’s going to make that push for what Morales could do in hitter-friendly venues. And when you do that, it stands to reason his numbers would take a leap from what he can produce in Seattle.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, for starters, that the Mariners likely won’t get Morales on-the-cheap.
I agree with Rosenthal that Morales would likely explore free agency in any event strictly because there’s a real good chance the Mariners make him a qualifying offer. Yeah, they’d be on-the-hook for $14 million in 2014 if Morales accepts it and that’s probably not going to win Seattle any Bang-for-Your-Buck Awards, but it’s all relative when you look at who the Mariners are.
This is a franchise that’s been without legit middle of the order hitters for several seasons and for all of what Morales can’t do — like run the bases or play a position five days per week — he’s still a pretty solid, consistent hitter from both sides of the plate. The Mariners, no matter what some guys have done since the team was long out of the race, are still an offensively weak ballclub that can’t afford to let good hitters walk just so they can impress their pals with how cost-effective they are.
So, yeah, there’s a great chance the Mariners — who have sliced and diced long-term deals off their books and have minimal money guaranteed to anybody beyond 2013 — will be willing to swallow a $14-million Morales pricetag for 2014 coming off another 85+-loss season.
The clue to that was that Morales wasn’t traded a month ago, or this past week.
The Mariners, at the very least, want that compensatory draft pick if Morales leaves. Otherwise, they’d have shipped him off for somebody a month ago.
So, they’ll likely make him some type of offer during their exclusive negotiating period, then, if he turns that down, make a qualifying offer.
Boras could then shop his client on the open market, see whether anybody’s buying his move-from-Safeco argument, and have Seattle’s $14 millon offer to fall back on if he doesn’t get blown out of the water. For a guy like Morales, coming off two missed seasons with a broken leg, $14 million per year is nothing to sneeze at. Remember, he’s never really made that long-term contract score and moving into an eight-figure annual range would be quite a coup from where he was this time two years ago.
It would also buy Morales another year to have an elite-level breakout season and try to land that mega-contract starting in 2015.
So, anyway, there’s still a good chance Morales stays.
I doubt the Mariners will blow Boras away with whatever pitch they make during their exclusive window, but if they do, great. If not, that $14 million qualifying offer could be tough to beat on an annual return basis. But if it is beaten, then the Mariners take away a draft pick.
So, anyhow, that’s where things stand on the Morales front. We’ll see where they are after the World Series ends.