I know, I’m right there with you. The Mariners needed a middle-of-the-orderish bat, certainly, but after the team failed to ink Morales to a free agent deal after last season, no one suspected the 31-year-old designated hitter would suit up in a Seattle uniform in 2014.
Alas, Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners front office stick to what they know best. Aside from reacquiring Chone Figgins in some form or fashion, obtaining Morales from the Minnesota Twins is about as surprising a move as the organization could have made. With a plethora of other names being discussed as potential targets for the M’s, the switch-hitting Morales was seemingly overlooked all along.
Regardless of any additional trades the M’s make, this one deal alone will produce a bevy of repercussions that have short- and long-term impacts on the future of the club. Here’s a quick look at how Morales’s arrival will affect the team and its personnel.
-The most obvious impact will be levied upon relief pitcher Stephen Pryor, who was the lone player sent to Minnesota in exchange for Morales. The 24-year-old right-hander lit up radar guns as recently as a season ago, unleashing fastballs that produced triple-digit readings.
A shoulder injury in 2013 shelved Pryor for nearly a year, but he made a brief return to the bigs for a one-game stint with the Mariners earlier this month. The once-promising reliever exhibited noticeable effects of his injury, with his velocity down significantly from where it had been when he was at full strength. Still working to become the late-inning stalwart many thought he might turn out to be, Pryor should get an opportunity to see consistent big league duty with the last-place Twins through the remainder of the season.
-Next we have Corey Hart, who can be seen pictured here:
If Hart isn’t designated for assignment (and his assignment will likely be to go home, wait ten days, then be officially released) after Morales arrives, it will be some sort of minor miracle. Relegated almost exclusively to DH duty over the course of the year, Hart has defied his job title and been absolutely abysmal in 51 games thus far.
The tangible benefit of cutting Hart, beyond just ridding the club of his empty bat, would be an available spot on both the 25-man and 40-man rosters. Presumably, the M’s could seize this opportunity to add someone like, say, hot-hitting shortstop prospect Chris Taylor to the 40-man roster, ensuring a clear path to the bigs. Of course, such a move would only fuel speculation that Brad Miller’s role as starting big league shortstop could be in jeopardy, but that’s neither here nor there for right now.
Point is, no team has space for two hitters with sub-.250 batting averages who both can’t field, so the writing on the wall is pretty clear: Corey Hart’s Mariners career is coming to an end.
-Finally, there’s Jesus Montero. Poor, naive, Jesus Montero. Rumor had it that Montero, of all people, would be promoted on Thursday with a spot available on the 25-man roster. An off day on Monday meant the Mariners could employ one fewer starting pitcher than usual for at least the next week-and-a-half, which in turn meant a minor league position player would likely benefit.
One could reasonably infer that Montero, who already occupies a spot on the 40-man roster and would therefore be easiest to promote, would have been the logical choice for a team in need of a power bat (the word “power” used loosely here) for a few days. Instead, the Mariners filled that open roster spot by acquiring Morales.
You can almost picture Montero rolling through the Taco Bell drive-thru with a big smile on his face, thinking he’s about to get another crack at the major leagues with their major league accommodations and their major league clubhouse spreads, and instead getting that fateful phone call letting him know that, sadly, none of this will be going as planned. You almost feel bad for the guy.
Everyone will be looking for a hot take on the acquisition of Morales, and our takes at Seattle Sportsnet are hotter than the blazing sun, so prepare yourselves because here comes straight fire.
Morales basically carried the Mariners offense a season ago and proved he, unlike so many others before him, could hit at Safeco Field. In 39 games with the Twins this season, though, he’s struggled mightily. Sitting out the first few months of 2014 seems to have had a residual impact on the Cuba native’s play through the abbreviated campaign. June and July have basically served as Morales’s trial-by-fire spring training, and Seattle is surely betting on improvement from their investment from now to the end of the year.
At worst, the Mariners just acquired a slightly better version of the incumbent, Hart, to fill their lineup through September — or longer, hopefully. At best, the M’s landed the same Kendrys Morales who posted a .277/.336/.449/.785 line with the team a year ago. The gamble is low-risk (Morales is only signed through 2014, and the departure of Pryor has no impact on the big league roster) and potentially high-reward (pairing the team’s offensive leader from a year ago with their offensive leaders of today can only help).
For as many wisecracks as this deal will ultimately elicit, the M’s made an inexpensive wager on a proven commodity Thursday. Not a bad move for a potentially playoff-bound ballclub.