Jays Sign Kendrys Morales for Three Years, $33-Million

Kendrys Morales
Photo Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

So… is this it? Ugh.

The Jays were just basking in tremendous praise for the Lourdes Gurriel signing, and now they go and do a thing like this. It’s… expected. And it is one of those things that I know has a very good chance to work out a whole lot better than it maybe feels right now, but still. Ugh.

And I say that because Morales isn’t Edwin. And signing Morales all but precludes the Jays from bringing Edwin back. And that sucks.

But the money they’ll pay Morales here looks pretty OK. The three year term is ideal as a potential bridge to Rowdy Tellez, should he continue to have success moving up the chain — or at least more than what Edwin will get. Though certainly not the whole equation, the fact that Morales doesn’t cost them a draft pick. And Morales is hardly useless.

He’s not great. He’s not Edwin. But he’s a switch hitter, which certainly helps, given the way this roster is constructed. He came around a bit in the second half (115 wRC+ compared to just 110 for the season), and especially September (154 wRC+), so maybe the Jays see something in that. It certainly would fit the mould of the J.A. Happ deal — which this signing echoes in a lot of ways.

It’s not exactly that the Jays are choosing quantity over quality, but there is a clear pattern developing. The new front office regime is choosing to allocate budget dollars to mid-tier players with no draft pick attachment, rather than to the big, top end pieces available. And that makes sense, given the balance the F.O. is trying to strike between building for the future — which is their mandate, and which could keep them employed and successful for decades, rather than mere short-sighted years — and taking advantage of the opportunities that they have in place now.

If they were more confident in their pipeline, we might see them making different choices and more willing to lock into long-term dollars, but right now that’s just not reality. Right now they feel the scale tips in favour of spreading their dollars around to keep their window open, and keeping draft picks where possible.

But that doesn’t mean there can’t be trade-offs or that they’re only looking to horde picks. Moving on from Edwin and ensuring themselves an additional high pick in next year’s draft will perhaps simply offset another move down the line — trading a prospect to help fill in their other gaps, or maybe even going after a free agent that does have a compensatory pick attached. Dexter Fowler and Kendrys Morales sure as fuck would look like a nice off-season haul for this club, for example. I just wouldn’t hold my breath for that yet…

Other things I wouldn’t do: Assume that the Jays have looked at Justin Smoak and decided that he’s good enough and they’ll just go with him. Assume that the Jays are done spending or done making moves.

Theoretically it’s possible that they could still look to Edwin. There’s also Jose, who has said he’d be willing to play a corner infield spot, and who still needs to make a decision about his qualifying offer — which still might, though I think it’s a long shot, be accepting it and aiming for the double windfall next winter of entering the market off a better season and in a system in which the QO process no longer exists. And there are a bunch of players on the market who will sill be of definite interest to the Jays. Josh Reddick’s name has come up, and he would certainly be an intriguing option, especially with Melvin Upton around to spell him against some tough lefties. Matt Joyce fits that profile, too. Eric Thames is intriguing. (I wrote about these names and others this week for VICE Sports, by the way).

So… everything is truly OK, and there are still a lot of paths the Jays can take. But let’s not get wrapped up too much in fanboying the process here, either. There’s a definite chance Kendrys Morales is bad. We already know he’s a bad base runner (Dave Cameron has some thoughts on that, Drew offers a counterpoint), and he offers no defensive value. At the plate he was bad in 2014, and not great this year. In that VICE piece I wrote that in 2016 was he was basically the 2015 version of Justin Smoak, but with better contact skills. That’s not exactly inspiring, even if it’s probably more solid than you think. Smoak was actually pretty decent in 2015, and his biggest problem contact/strikeouts, so to get an upgrade on that in what looks to be a down year? That’s pretty good. But if that’s not his floor…

Still, in a vacuum the deal makes enough sense. Given the needs of the roster, the need to allocate dollars elsewhere, and the needs of the farm system, it makes enough sense. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in our hearts maybe, but what ever does?