By Todd Dybas The News Tribune
SEATTLE — What about Kendrys Morales?
That’s a question asked by a number of Seattle Mariners fans.
Morales is an unsigned free agent who spent last season as an effective designated hitter for Seattle. The 30-year-old Morales hit 23 home runs and had a .785 OPS during 2013, one of his few healthy full seasons in the big leagues.
Despite multiple attempts by the club to re-sign Morales, he’s not part of the Mariners.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik fielded questions at the end of a meet-and-greet with season-ticket holders on opening night at Safeco Field. He was asked about Morales and said the Mariners had offered him a three-year, $30 million contract, which he declined. The offer was made during last season after the All-Star break.
The Mariners then made Morales a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer after the 2013 season, which he also rejected. A qualifying offer is equal to the average salary of the 125 top-paid players in the major leagues the prior season and would bind the player to his current team for one season. Last offseason, 13 players were offered qualifying offers. All declined.
Seattle moved on. It signed Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Morales continued to be dangled by his agent, Scott Boras, without settling on a deal.
So, Morales waits.
The Mariners are the only team that could sign Morales prior to the June 5 MLB draft without losing a compensatory first-round pick (with the first 10 picks in the draft protected). After that, teams will not be penalized for signing him and his market may open up. Forfeited picks do not go to other MLB teams. Instead, the first round is reduced.
Also, now that the season has begun, Morales cannot be given a qualifying offer at the end of 2014. He would again become a free agent.
There has been a void at designated hitter for the Mariners during the early part of 2014. Hart came into Tuesday’s game with a .167 batting average. He had struck out 11 times and had six hits as the team’s primary DH.
Morales will remain a switch-hitting what-if, who comes with injury flags and an agent renowned for pumping up the price.
But, there is one thing that trumps all of that: He can hit. Which begs the question if he can still fit with Seattle and, if so, at what price?