Report: Mariners’ Morales to opt for free agency

Just over a week ago, general manager Jack Zduriencik told multiple radio stations that the Seattle Mariners planned to make a qualifying offer to designated hitter part-time first baseman Kendrys Morales.

Zduriencik had hinted toward that possibility around the trade deadline as well, while mentioning he was trying to sign Morales to a contract extension.

Basically, a qualifying offer means that the Mariners can offer Morales a one-year deal worth roughly $13.8 million. Morales and his agent Scott Boras could either accept that contract or opt out and declare for free agency. If he declines the offer, any team that signed Morales must forfeit its first round draft pick in the 2014 draft to the Mariners. The deadline to make a qualifying offer is five days after the World Series ends. Morales would have till 12 days until after the World Series to accept or turn down the offer. What will he do?

It appears the Mariners have their answer.

On Tuesday, CBS sports Jon Heyman reported that Morales will spurn the qualifying offer and opt for free agency. This information likely came directly from Boras.

It shouldn’t be surprising considering Boras always believes he can find better deals for his clients on the open free agent market.

Morales’ numbers aren’t gaudy. He hit .277 with 34 doubles, 23 home runs and 80 RBI with a .785 on-base plus slugging percentage.

But the 2014 free agent class is relatively weak in terms of hitting and power. It features: Robinson Cano (looking for 10-year, $300 million contract), Nelson Cruz (performance enhancing drug baggage), Brian McCann, Shin Soo-Choo (also a Boras client and looking for $100 million). With Hunter Pence recently signing a 5-year, $90 million extension with the Giants, Boras and Morales must sense that he could land a multi-year deal that might not be as much per year, but offer some security According to Heyman, that multi-year deal still might come with the Mariners.

Of course, this move could backfire on Morales as well. It’s a very similar situation to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who was coming off a career best year and turned down the Washington Nationals’ qualifying offer after last season. LaRoche hoped to capitalize on it with a three or four-year contract. He eventually signed a two-year, $24 million deal with Washington.

Witherspoon claimed

The Mariners also made a minor roster move on Tuesday afternoon when they claimed outfielder Travis Witherspoon off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.

In order to add Witherspoon to the 40-man roster, they had to make room by designating veteran catcher Henry Blanco for assignment. They now have 10 days to trade, release or outright Blanco’s contract to the minors.

Witherspoon, 24, spent last season at Class AA Arkansas, hitting .214 with 18 doubles, three triples, 11 homers and 38 RBI. Witherspoon can run, stealing 30 bases in 40 attempts in 129 games. He has 140 stolen bases (33 caught stealing) in his minor league career, including a combined 110 steals since the start of the 2011 season.

Witherspoon, a native of Sumter, S.C., was a 12th-round draft pick by the Angels in the 2009 draft out of Spartanburg Methodist College in South Carolina.

It was not a surprise that Blanco was let go. At age 42, he really has no future with the organization as a player. He was brought on to be a mentor for Mike Zunino and filled that role ably.

Blanco hit .125 (12-for-96) with 8 runs scored 2 doubles, 3 home runs and 14 RBI in 35 games with the Mariners after signing as a free agent on June 14.

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