Today is a very exciting for day for just about every team in baseball as the MLB draft is upon us. Teams will be loading up (hopefully) on players that will be the foundation of their future.
For a much smaller subset of teams, there is additional excitement because they are now free to sign free agent DH Kendrys Morales without having to sacrifice one of their precious draft picks. While Morales isn’t necessarily a star player, he has a proven track record of being productive in the majors and there are several contenders (or wannabe-contenders) who could really use him to boost their lineup. Count the Angels among that crowd even though they are already one of the top offenses in the game.
Despite Mike Scioscia‘s unwavering faith in Raul Ibanez, the Halos have themselves a major problem at designated hitter. There has been a lot of talk about Ibanez being “on the verge” of breaking through, but we are now a few days into June and his average is closer to .100 than it is to .200. They’ve got to cut bait at some point but perhaps one of the reasons they have yet to do so is a lack of alternatives to turn to.
Well, Morales could be that alternative. He would give the Angels that additional slugger in the lineup and provides balance as he is at his best swinging from the left side of the plate. Basically, he’s everything that the Angels want Ibanez to be, only he isn’t a mummified corpse, which is always a plus.
The problem, and there is always a problem, is that the Angels probably can’t afford Morales. Technically speaking, they probably have the money available to pay Morales, but paying him anywhere close to what his likely asking price figures to be will push them perilously close to the luxury tax line, if not over it. Assuming Morales is targeting the same contract as Stephen Drew, which is a prorated version of the one-year qualifying offer, it would put Morales on the books for about $10 million this year. The Angels are approximately $10 million below the luxury tax line. What that means is that if they sign Kendrys, they are pretty much done making moves.
Sure, Morales would boost the offense, but that’s more of a “want” than it is a “need.” What the Angels “need” is a better fifth starter than Matt Shoemaker. What the Angels “need” is a left-handed reliever. What the Angels “need” is really just any reliever that isn’t horrible. Improving their DH situation is just something they “want” to do.
Hitting the eject button on Ibanez shouldn’t even be contingent on Morales. He’d obviously be an immediate major upgrade, but it isn’t as if the Halos are without recourse. C.J. Cron has been performing well in his timeshare arrangement with Ibanez at DH, they could simply turn the job over to him on a full-time basis. His numbers would certainly decline against right-handed pitching, but it isn’t as if he has a high bar to clear based on what Ibanez has been providing. They also have guys like Grant Green and Collin Cowgill that they could cycle through the position (or use in the field and have Hamilton or Calhoun spend some time at DH). If worse comes to worse, they can still look to fill the DH void at the deadline when guys like Seth Smith and Josh Willingham figure to be available and not require the same financial commitment. Morales is the quality solution, but a Cron/Green/Cowgill pupu platter is the quantity solution and there may not necessarily be that much of a drop-off.
Still, I see the temptation of signing Morales. Some of the teams said to be in pursuit of him are the Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and maybe the A’s. All of which are challengers for either the AL West or a Wild Card spot. Oh, the Royals are interested as well, but c’mon. Even if Morales is a “want,” they’d be harming the competition in the process simply by keeping Morales away from them. Plus, there probably isn’t another team out there that is more informed of Morales’ troubling medical history.
Is that enough to offset them hamstringing their ability to make moves at the trade deadline? Probably not. They’ve already done a fine job of that by having one of the worst farm systems in baseball. It is just too much of a hit for them to take, no matter how tempting it might be.