When Kendrys Morales rejected a qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners and entered free agency, he probably expected to receive a better deal than the prorated $12 million contract he signed with the Minnesota Twins over the weekend. The switch-hitting Morales managed a .342 wOBA in Safeco Field in 2013, hitting 23 home runs, but the draft pick compensation tied to him caused his suitors to hesitate.
With a 29-33 record and 5.2% chance of making the playoffs according to our algorithms, the Twins were not one of the expected contenders for Morales. The truth is though, they needed him. Chris Colabello, Jason Kubel, Chris Parmalee, and others combined for -1.7 WAR in right field, and Brian Dozier was the only full-time starter showing real power.
Although the Twins really only signed Morales this week, they did drastically improve their lineup by activating outfielders Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia off the disabled list. It also looks like Danny Santana has sufficiently warded off Aaron Hicks from the centerfield job. The projections we here at numberFire use are awesome, and you should use them too, but they are insufficient for this scenario. I expect Morales, Willingham, and Arcia to provide approximately 1,234,567,890 Wins Above Jason Kubel.
Given that Safeco Field and Target Field rated closely by almost all park factors in 2013, home ballpark should not have a substantial impact on Morales’ play. He is a switch-hitter, and a very good one, as in 2013 he put up a .340 wOBA as a lefty and .345 wOBA as a righty. He hits to all fields, and his batted ball distributions (how many ground balls, fly balls, line drives) are similar from each side of the plate.
The Minnesota lineup that was already in place did not have much pop, the team’s .325 OBP is ninth in baseball. In his Twins debut on Monday, Morales batted sixth, so he should be able to drive in plenty of runs from here on out. However, the batters behind him were Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki, and Eduardo Escobar, so Morales should still be able to score a few runs.
Since he is a terrible fielder by Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating, and even the old fashioned eye test, Morales will probably stick as a designated hitter only. That means he is unlikely to add anything to his first base eligibility, and since Josmil Pinto was splitting time between catcher and designated hitter, either Pinto, Suzuki, or Morales may be deprived of everyday plate appearances.
At age 30 and in the middle of a four-year decline in slugging percentage, it is unlikely Morales will top his 2009 career year and be a top-five first baseman the rest of the season. However, he should be a worthy middle infielder in most 10-team leagues or anything deeper, and he has been remarkably consistent since breaking in full-time with the Angels.