The market for free agent designated hitter Kendrys Morales is heating up, as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are all reportedly showing interest in acquiring his services. Even further, the Royals are interested in retaining his services according to Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays interest comes courtesy of a report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post. According to the report, the Yankees’ interest is incumbent on whether or not they can unload Brian McCann’s contract during the offseason:
McCann is owed $34 million total over the next two seasons guaranteed, with a vesting option based on performance. In order to opt-in to the third and final year worth $15 million, McCann would have to have 1,000 plate appearances over the next two seasons, catch 90 games in 2018, and not finish the season on the disabled list. At the moment, McCann seems right on the cusp of being able to meet all of those requirements, but being away from Gary Sanchez would only increase the probability of meeting those thresholds.
The Red Sox are still dealing with the retirement of David Ortiz. While Morales hit just eight fewer home runs than Ortiz, he still wouldn’t replace his 2016 performance. After announcing his retirement prior to the season, Ortiz had one of his best seasons ever, hitting 63 percent better than the league average by wRC+. Morales could help supplement some of that value, but the Red Sox may be chasing a more high profile DH candidate, such as Edwin Encarnacion.
Which brings us to our next potential landing spot for Morales; the Blue Jays. Toronto is coping with the potential loss of Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Michael Saunders. Unlike any of the potentially-departing candidates, Morales is a switch hitter, which may pique the interest of the Blue Jays a bit more.
That being said, Morales would only supplement the losses of the Jays’ departed batters so much. While none of the four players should probably play a position, Morales hit only 10 percent better than the league average by wRC+ last season. To put that into perspective, Saunders—who had a horrendous second-half and missed out on a qualifying offer—hit 17 percent better than the league average.
After Morales started the season slugging just .330 with a .262 OBP through the first two months, there was some belief that the Royals may designate him for assignment. Instead though, the 33-year old bounced back down 24 home runs from that point forward. The strong finish has likely helped his case in free agency, but some front offices may be weary of acquiring a potentially hot-and-cold bat who is largely unable to play a defensive position.