The Athletics have acquired Kendrys Morales and cash from the Blue Jays in exchange for minor-league infielder Jesus Lopez and international slot money, as ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Wednesday night (a.k.a. Opening Day eve) and the team quickly confirmed:
Designated hitter Kendrys Morales has been traded to the Oakland A’s from Toronto, a source with knowledge of the deal tells ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2019
OFFICIAL: We've acquired Minor League INF Jesus Lopez and international signing bonus pool space from the @Athletics in exchange for DH/1B Kendrys Morales and cash considerations.— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 28, 2019
The 35-year-old Morales, who was primarily a DH with Toronto, is expected to play primarily first base with the A’s, filling in for injured slugger Matt Olson, who is out indefinitely after having his broken right hand surgically repaired. The switch-hitting Morales will likely play against right-handed pitchers — against whom he’s hit .264/.328/.468 for his career and hit .274/366/.495 against in 2018 — while righty-hitting Mark Canha will likely see action at first against lefties. Morales becomes Oakland’s third switch-hitter, joining Robbie Grossman and Jurickson Profar, though they still do not have a strictly left-handed hitter with Olson, Nick Martini, and Chris Herrmann on the injured list.
The Blue Jays’ decision to move Morales, who is making $12 million during the final season of a three-year, $33 million deal, isn’t necessarily the most surprising decision in the world. He’s no longer an effective hitter against lefties at this point, and Toronto seems to be emphasizing affordability and youth above all else right now as they go through somewhat of a rebuilding process. With Morales gone, they’ll likely use the DH position to give regulars quasi-days off for the immediate future. With a third baseman in Brandon Drury who was a pretty effective everyday starter for the Diamondbacks not too long ago and an emerging star in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. whose biggest weakness is clearly his fielding ability, the DH spot may end up being Vladito’s most logical landing spot in the long term. With that said, Toronto probably will try as hard as possible to develop Guerrero into a playable fielder at third, as that would increase his value tremendously — and it’s difficult to see them giving up on him as a third baseman at just 20 years old. And all of this is a moot point for at least a few weeks, anyway, as Guerrero is currently out with an oblique injury.
Lopez, 22, was signed as an international free agent out of Nicaragua by the A’s in 2013. The right-handed hitter, who has yet to make it out of A-ball, has a .221/.278/.311 career slash line with 15 homers over five seasons. Lopez, who has seen action primarily at second base but also at shortstop and third base during his minor-league career, had a bit of a breakout season — at least relatively speaking — in 2018, hitting .239/.293/.402 with 10 homers. If you’re doing the math, that home run total is 2⁄3 of his career output, so perhaps we can expect him to develop into somewhat of a power threat in the future. Lopez was not ranked among the Athletics’ top 30 prospects by MLB Pipeline.