Kendrys Morales' Return to Seattle Was Necessary
He came. He saw. He had a .259 on-base percentage. That is the story of Kendrys Morales with the Minnesota Twins.
Only 47 days after signing Morales to a pro-rated $12 million dollar contract, the Twins shipped him back to Seattle for right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor. This puts Morales in the same place where he turned down a three-year, $30 million contract this winter. And it could be exactly what both he and the Mariners needed.
For Morales, he gets out of Minnesota and onto a team that can actually make the playoffs this year. The Mariners get the man who blasted 23 homers for them last year. It's all great, right? Not so fast, my homie.
The Long Road Back
As noted in the lede, Morales hasn't exactly been mashing taters this year. He has, rather, gently filleted them.
In 162 plate appearances since signing on June 8th, Morales has hit .234/.259/.325 with a .255 weighted on-base average (wOBA). This gives him a nERD of -0.90, the 333rd-ranked total in the league. If you're new to numberFire, nERD is our stat that measures the number of runs a batter is worth above or below an average hitter if he were to record 27 plate appearances in a game. Negative is bad. Morales has been bad.
But, when you consider Morales's situation, it may not be fair to look at his season as a whole. Because he was out of options, he didn't have the luxury that Stephen Drew had to bop down to the minors and tune up before making a full-fledged return. He was thrown into the fire and asked to re-gain his timing on the fly.
To solve for this, let's look at Morales starting July 7th, 29 days after he arrived in Minnesota. That should give us a better idea of what he'll bring to the Mariners.
Over that time, Morales has certainly been better than what he was in June. Even with the improvement, dude has been riding shotty on the struggle bus. In 55 plate appearances, Morales's slash is up to .269/.291/.385 with a .294 wOBA. None of those marks (minus possibly the batting average) are anywhere near where the designated hitter on a contending team should be. Unfortunately, he still may be an upgrade for the Mariners.
Why the Mariners Needed Morales
Morales's numbers with the Twins were fairly atrocious. This means he should be a perfect fit for the present Seattle offense.
Of the 30 MLB teams, 27 of them have a higher team wOBA than the Mariners. The only two beneath them are the Phillies and the Padres who have a combined .436 win percentage this year and are in the National League. That's some gross territory.
Speaking of the National League, Seattle may as well re-locate to the senior circuit. A.L. rules allow the Mariners to use a designated hitter, but they might be better not even doing so. Their designated hitters have done so poorly this year that their pitchers could possibly give them a run for their money.
On the season, players batting as the team's designated hitter have belligerently stumbled to a .196/.277/.293 slash and just 17 extra-base hits. Madison Bumgarner is out-slugging them by 207 points. How in the world is this team contending for the playoffs?
Obviously, this team's pitching staff is one of the illest of the ill. They have scored the second fewest runs in the A.L. this year, and they still have a plus-52 run differential. This means that any uptick in offensive production, no matter how small, should benefit them in a huge way. The question now is whether or not the 2014 version of Morales can provide even that.
At the end of the day, it's a gamble for the Mariners. They owe Morales over $4 million for the rest of the year. If he keeps hitting like he has been, they will struggle to regain that second wildcard spot. But, if he can find even some of that 2013 production, the Mariners should at the very least make a great push for that final playoff spot until the end.