Seattle Mariners v Oakland AthleticsIt’s no secret that the Seattle Mariners have been stuck in a rut recently and after being swept this weekend by the Miami Marlins, it may be time to shake things up a little bit. Certainly the M’s would be in a better position at the moment if their rotation wasn’t decimated by injuries, but their .225 team batting average is the third worst in all of baseball and is nearly an equal cause for concern. Yes, there’s an awful lot of season to be played, but if Seattle still fancies themselves as contenders this year, now is as good a time as any to get the lineup some help while the rotation recovers. And that could still come in the form of a familiar face; Kendrys Morales.

Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill outlined several possible moves the Mariners could make to help the club in the immediate future and one of those suggestions was to option Logan Morrison to Triple-A, and sign Morales who remains a free agent. Of course this comes with two very important caveats: Corey Hart must be able to man right field four times a week and Morales must be willing to sign a one-year deal. Both factors are relative unknowns at this point, but one would have to think that the possibilities of both occurring do have some life.

Hart started in right field this past Thursday and Sunday and after starting at first base on Friday, shifted to right field after Michael Saunders was pinch hit for. The 16 2/3 innings of action he’s seen in the outfield aren’t near enough to draw any legitimate conclusions from, but the fact that he’s actually looked decent out there is definitely an encouraging sign. Realistically it could take the M’s another month if not longer to make a determination on whether or not Hart’s knees can handle the outfield, and there’s no reason to take any course of action other than easing him back in slowly. After all, he was signed for his ability to hit a baseball, not necessarily his ability to catch one.

With Hart seeing outfield time and Morrison not on the big league club like Jason suggested, there would be plenty of at-bats available for Morales who could DH when Hart plays the field and possibly see some time at first base when Hart is the designated hitter. As it stands Morrison is on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so the club would have to wait until after he’s activated to send him down anyways. His contributions have obviously been limited, but a quick comparison of his results after 18 team games this year to Morales’ first 18 last year show that there’s a strong likelihood than an upgrade could be made. Justin Smoak has cooled off of late, but thanks to a hot start has his overall numbers don’t look too bad and are relatively comparable to what Morales produced in last year’s sample. It’s unlikely to suggest that he would be removed from everyday duties anytime soon.

Morales 18 games

In some ways Morales could conceivably replace Morrison, but of course it’s not quite a simple trade off since LoMo hasn’t been an everyday player and he’d be taking at-bats from other players as well. But it is easy to see the potential offensive upgrade that would come with bringing the free agent back into the fold and taking at-bats from players like LoMo.

The second impediment to potentially signing Morales is what it has been all along; his agent, Scott Boras. Obviously an agent wants to get their client the best deal they can, but what the best possible deal is varies from player to player of course. The trend with Boras though, has been the bottom line dollar playing the most significant part of any deal so nobody should’ve been surprised when the party announced they were content to wait in order to get that best possible deal. But perhaps as the calendar turns to May, Morales gets a little anxious about getting back into a team’s everyday lineup and the concept of a “bridge” contract becomes more palpable. After all, he’s already guaranteed that he won’t be tied to draft pick compensation next winter since he will have signed after the season started.

It really is unfortunate that Morales, and another Boras client Stephen Drew, are still without contracts since the draft pick compensation has seriously diminished their value to any interested club, especially since there are more than a few teams who could benefit from the addition of one or the other. However, now that the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired Ike Davis — the Pirates were rumored to be a moderately serious suitor for the first baseman/designated hitter — would Boras really be able to get a multi-year deal for Morales even if he waits until after this June’s draft and is freed of draft pick compensation?

It’s been reported that the Mariners had offered Morales a three-year deal worth $30 million last summer, and at the time it probably seemed likely he could top that offer once he hit the open market. But, considering the fact he’s all but limited to designated hitter duties, did Boras really anticipate a bidding war to break out for his services? Sure, Morales has been a capable defender at first base in the past and he is another year removed from the broken leg he suffered at the beginning of the 2010 season, but a team is could be taking a lot of risk if they are signing him to be their everyday first baseman. It’s really no different than the Mariners signing Hart to be their everyday right fielder, but they didn’t sign him for that purpose; the fact he may actually be able to play in the field is pure gravy at this point. Teams would be lining up to give David Ortiz a multi-year deal to be their designated hitter since he’s a legitimate game changer; Morales is not at that level.

Throughout the offseason, and even after the Hart signing and Morrison trade, Seattle was considered to be the most logical landing spot for Morales. Perhaps they became even better suitors after adding the pair considering the team’s affinity for stockpiling designated hitter types and then deploying them regularly in the field. But after the Baltimore Orioles agreed to sign Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal worth just $8 million — remember, both he and Morales had rejected the one-year $14.1 million qualifying offer — many figured that a potential Morales deal would probably be of the same term but with a slightly higher dollar amount. And with the Orioles and now Pirates out of the picture, are there really any other options outside of Seattle? Barring an unforeseen injury, probably not.

The question that has to follow pertains to whether or not the Mariners even have room for Morales on their roster at the moment. Let’s say Morales is reluctantly willing to accept a one-year deal worth the pro-rated portion of the $14.1 million qualifying offer to spend another year in the Pacific Northwest. Of course there’s still the question of whether or not ownership would allow the club to take on further payroll since this could all be a moot point if they say there’s no more cash to spend, but let’s remove that hurdle for right now. Although he has been working out regularly, he’ll need to spend at least a couple of weeks in extended spring training to get close to game speed, and will likely require an adjustment period at the major league level as well. Even if Morales was signed today, he’s probably three or four weeks away from actually producing something tangible for the club.

If it’s in fact determined Hart can regularly spend time in the outfield, Morales should be able to slide nicely into the regular designated hitter slot. The next question to be asked is who takes the hit as the 25-man roster casualty? Jason suggested sending Morrison down to Tacoma and I’d agree with that since letting him get back to basics and gain some confidence could be beneficial and he still does have an option available. As does Stefen Romero who’s been used sparingly thus far and has seen little success at the major league level. The 25-year old would definitely benefit more by playing everyday in Tacoma instead of seeing pinch-hit duty and the occasional start.

Another suggestion of Churchill’s was to send down Romero and call up Cole Gillespie, a 29-year old journeyman, who could fill Romero’s role of right-handed hitting outfielder and would have minimal downside. It would appear that both Romero and Morrison would be better served playing everyday in Triple-A as opposed to sitting on the bench and pinch-hitting late in games. Sending down Romero and calling up Gillespie doesn’t solve the 25-man roster issue however, so even if the pair were to trade places, adding Morales would require another roster move.

Perhaps Michael Saunders, who’s become the odd man out in the outfield, could be dealt for pitching help. It’s very surprising to hear that Saunders has found himself in the fourth outfielder role after appearing to be a near lock to play everyday in the outfield just a few months ago. He hasn’t hit well in limited action this year, but does represent an upgrade defensively and on the base paths compared to what Romero and Abraham Almonte provide. That’s pure speculation on my part however and there’s no real benefit to selling low on Saunders right now. The club also doesn’t have the necessary depth to deal an outfielder right now anyways.

Certainly there’s a scenario in which the club could fit Morales into the everyday lineup and there’s little doubt that he does represent an upgrade over some of what’s there now. His .280 career batting average would fit quite nicely in a lineup in dire need of a boost. Any kind of a boost. Players like Brad Miller and Kyle Seager will see their averages come around eventually and others will see their lines even out as the plate appearances add up, but the club is failing to score runs and that presents a huge problem when there’s only one proven starter currently in the rotation.

A lot of stars will have to align for Morales to wear blue and teal again, and by stars I mean Hart’s knees and Boras’ contract demands, but it could still happen. The roster moves will likely sort them out — LoMo or Romero being sent down make the most sense — so it really is just a matter of patience on the Mariners’ part and seeing whether or not things might work out in the favour for once.

A few more weeks and we should have an idea what the extent of Hart’s outfield abilities will this year and Morales’ camp might get a little more anxious about getting him playing time sooner rather than later. The 2014 Seattle Mariners can still be a .500 team as-is, but that extra bat would push the scales further in their favour and they could really use that right about now.

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  1. I understand your point with Jimenez, but it could easily be argued that different factors coming from pitching with a different team would change his numbers, but I’m not opening that can of worms. Jimenez has always been a volatile pitcher, and there’s always the possibility he turns it on and puts together 5 or 6 solid starts in a row. Suddenly his numbers don’t look so bad. I for one was more in favour of an Ervin Santana signing than Jimenez, but he still represents an upgrade over the pieced together rotation that’s currently in place. Even if his numbers don’t show it right now, you can’t tell me he isn’t a better pitcher than several that have taken the mound for the M’s this year and last.

    How am I scapegoating? I, among many, believe that the Mariners are simply a struggling baseball club right now. Guys like Miller and Seager WILL produce better. A guy like Smoak has already shown basically everything we can expect from him. Saunders hasn’t been an All-Star, but you can’t deny the fact his situation is unfortunate. There’s no reason that Almonte and Romero should be taking away starts from him. Saunders is a fourth outfielder on a lot of teams, but he’s definitely one of the best three currently on the Mariners right now; I’m still excluding Hart from that list until he plays RF consistently.

  2. Of course Jack is on the hot seat. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. That said, this insane concept that somehow repeating that hs is, serves no purpose. Every GM in baseball is on the hot seat when their team loses. Repeating the obvious, doesn’t make it any more impactful.

    My point about Jimenez is that some are willing to slam Jack for the moves that he made, and not for those that he didn’t make, that they fully supported. How much praise was given to Jimenez on this board by many? Yet, if you go by his numbers so far, he would have been absolutely no help in changing the current outcome. He’s no better than Ramirez at this point.

    How many here, just last year, opined about how smart Jack would be to trade for Morrison. Now, some act as if those words were never written.

    We’re all frustrated, but stop scapegoating. It won’t make anything better. Smoak is not even close to the top of the list of candidates who shouldn’t be getting playing time. How in the world could anyone have envisioned such a slow start for Miller and Seager? How many here ignore that Saunders, through most of his Mariner career has been pretty close to meaningless to the offense?

    I get being frustrated. But, using emotion instead of logic, is never a formula for success. There is no one fix.

  3. I don’t think you can judge the Jimenez signing after four starts. By that logic go ahead and say that Cano wasn’t worth the deal he got since he doesn’t have 75 base hits in the first 20 games. It’s still early. I know you’re all sick of hearing it, but let’s double the current sample size before casting too many judgements.

    I do agree however that Jack Z is on the hot seat, but I’d imagine that ownership let’s this year play out — it’s reportedly the last year he’s under contract — before he possible gets the axe unless things get really, really dire. I’ve yet to see any signs that McClendon has lost the clubhouse. This is a struggling baseball club and the players are obviously discouraged. I think you’re seeing a team looking for a way to seriously bust the slump as opposed to a team tuning out their manager.

  4. “I’m sorry, was the $24 million spent on Cano, getting a player coming off of injury? Some of you are incredibly narrow minded. ”

    If you had bothered to read more than one sentence, you would I seen, I said he (Cano) was the exception (box office draw). I’m saying the same things I’ve been saying for a long time, nothing new nor emotional here. But you are typical, give him time, wait for the kids, blah, blah. This franchise has sucked for awhile, as we all know. I strongly believe that a better job can be done from the GM and on up the chain of command. Nothing emotional, irrational, or unrealistical about that. Somehow some teams find a way to be competitive every year. The Mariners were like that for a short spell, so we know it can be done.

  5. I encourage Magman to provide a source for his comments about McLendon losing the clubhouse. It’s less than a month into the season, and he’s lost the clubhouse? If so, then start sending some of those players back to Tacoma, and let them enjoy the comforts abided to them there.

    McLendon bad-mouths Ramirez, and you defend the player? What about Ramirez has he not been correct about? He threw two, two-strike pitches down the center of the plate for homeruns. He should be praised for that?

    McLendon moves up Ackley and decides it was a mistake. Hell yes, it was. The minute Dustin became the #2 hitter in the order, he completely lost his strikezone judgement.

    While Almonte hasn’t been great, he’s better than some who might as well just phone in four hitless at-bats, with two strikeouts.

    There are changes to be made, and they will be. But some of you need to own up some of your suggestions that Jack should make, that he did, that didn’t work out.

    BTW, many of you were high on Umbaldo Jimenez is sporting an 0-3 record, with a 6.75 ERA. That would indicate that some of you aren’t as smart as you think, while you rip into Jack because some players are stepping up and doing their job, regardless of who the manager is.

  6. Jack has hired three managers and they have all swung and missed, he should be out. McClendon bad mouths Ramirez but keeps running Almonte out there and he’s not up to it, especially in a lead-off role. How bad do some of these guys have to get before they get sent down to learn how to hit? McClendon moves Ackley up and then decides it’s a mistake. “We’ll bluff our way through it and in the end, we’ll be just fine.” McClendon said. The AL West has called his bluff. If fan abuse was a crime the Mariners would be doing time.

  7. Edman comes out of hiding! I wondered when he would come lurking out of the weeds. Maqman made comments that McClendon had lost the clubhouse, and I wondered where Edman was? Then a couple of posts with criticism of Jack’s moves this past offseason and he resurfaces. Welcome back to PI.

    Yes, the season is early, and Yes we have a small sample size, but you must admit it looks a lot like the “same old Mariners.” Jack’s seat is getting hotter by the day. Maybe they don’t fire him during the season, but I will be shocked if he is back next year.

    BTW, I agree with you that the young guys need to step up, but guess what, these young guys are Jack’s guys and his butt is on the line.

  8. Scapegoating so early? I’m sorry, was the $24 million spent on Cano, getting a player coming off of injury? Some of you are incredibly narrow minded. You assume that the number of free agents that want to come to Seattle, is vast and deep. So far, Hart hasn’t been a problem, and he is coming off of a couple of severe knee injuries, so that’s not it. Jack offereed Morales a three-year $30 million deal, and he turned it down. He offered him $14 million for one year, and that wasn’t enough.

    Some of you need to stop being emotional, and think rationally, and realistically. Before you spout off about what Jack “should” have done, you better be able to back it up with facts, rather than pretending to know based on your personal bias’. Jack landed the best hitter and defensive infielder on the Free Agent market, and still, some of you aren’t satisfied.

    What’s killing this team offensively right now, is guys like Mike Saunders, Brad Miller, etc. They have to step up. Jack can’t make them do that.

    Oh, and btw, how many of you laughed at the idea of trading Saunders for Viciedo? Would you trade his offense for Saunders’ defense.

    I find it funny that when some of you make comments like “Jack need to…..”, and he does the very thing you asked for, that suddenly you have short-term memory.

    Yes, it’s frustrating right now, but the biggest mistake Jack could make would be to panic. Those kind of moves typically cost more than they return.

  9. JZ’s moves don’t work out because he never gets anyone who isn’t coming off injury or hoping for a comeback (in other words Cheap). Cano is the only exception and I think they were hoping would fill seats. But he certainly isn’t the straw that stirs the drink and shouldn’t be expected to be that guy. The only way this team was going to win is if all the “if’s” worked out. No depth to speak of. Just cheap draft picks, cheap free agents, a star or two, and well that basically sums it up.

  10. I think JZ is in trouble. If we don’t have a HUGE May I think he could get a mid season axe the same way Bavasi did. His moves just haven’t worked out.

    Time for some new direction.

  11. I agree that the Cardinals may not have as much pitching depth in the upper minors as they have had recently, but how would Seattle be able to help that? I’d love to be able to swing a trade for an outfielder, but the reality is that the M’s are scratching and clawing to get innings out of their starters as it is. Maybe next winter the two sides could look into a deal to help each other’s needs, but I just can’t see it happening anytime soon. St. Louis is one of the best run organizations in all of baseball and their player development program is outstanding. I’d happily take almost anyone from their system.

  12. I disagree that calling Franklin up has destroyed any trade value he was building. Certainly he’s better served playing everyday at Triple-A than on the Mariners’ bench, but there’s no reason to think his trade value has been affected. There really just hasn’t been much of a trade market recently and barring something unforeseen, it’ll at least another month before teams start looking to make some moves.

    I wouldn’t start losing my mind over the Morrison trade either. Capps has yet to throw a pitch in a Marlin uniform and LoMo was a former top prospect who they took a shot on. Obviously the early returns on Morrison have been non-existent, but the M’s didn’t really lose anything on this deal. Let’s see a healthy Morrison before you start evaluating that deal too much.

  13. Morrison is signed to a $1.75 million contract, the purpose of which I have never understood unless they had some mad money burning up their vault. They won’t be quick to admit that was not a sparkling move to the owners. McClendon seems to be giving attaboys and criticism to the wrong people, I read somewhere very recently that he has “lost the clubhouse” or something to that effect. I can see that happening.

  14. Regarding Morlaes…I would much rather get a pick for him. I was disappointed when Baltimore and Pittsburg went in other directions for their 1B/DH needs. I really don’t see us getting a pick for the guy, who would possibly sign him before the draft? Even after the draft, I don’t see him getting the big contract he wants. His best bet is signing a one year deal and hitting the market (this time without the tender) next year. Free agent class next year is awful and he would be one of the top hitters available.

    I would love to see a long term solutions (outfielder) via trade, but teams with these kinds of players are reluctant to trade them. McGovern, I like your St. Louis Cardinal ideas, but I don’t see it happening. I am sure Jack is trying to make something happen, but I am not holding my breath…

    Promoting Nick Franklin sure destroyed any trade value he was starting to build up in AAA. I wish they would have let him just continue to rake in AAA (the entire year if needed) until the right trade was available. Now he is with the big club and not playing??? What has Brad Miller done to deserve to play everyday? If you are going to bring up Franklin, at least platoon him with Miller. First guy to stop sucking gets the bulk of the playing time?

    Also, Logan Morrison can spend the year in single A Everett for all I care. The guy has shown nothing. This trade is starting to remind of the blunder of sending reliever Matt Thornton to the White Sox for
    Joe Borchard years ago.

  15. If I were GM and was given the green light for the $$$:

    1) Sign Morales, have him and Hart alternate at 1B/DH
    2) Ship Smoak out for something, preferably a #6 starter; It’s not going to happen for him here, accept it, move on, try to build a little bit for this team.
    3) Get a righty that can hit LHP and actually play the OF to platoon with the lefty-heavy OFers… Trade? Gillespie? Bring up Ty Kelly and move Bloomquist to backup OF full time?
    4) Send Romero back down for some more seasoning; I haven’t nearly given up on him, but he isn’t ready to mash, and therefore isn’t an MLB player… yet
    5) As for LoMO… Keep him at AAA; he has physical talent and an option, no hurt in seeing if the light can go on in the next 12 months.

    Your position players are then:


    Bloomquist- Can be the primary back up at 7 positions
    Buck- No problem keeping the status quo
    Franklin- I’m of the opinion that for him, playing 4 days a week at the MLB level is better than 6 at AAA
    Gillespie/Kelly- Your 25th guy, can backup in either the IF or OF

  16. With Kuma, Paxton and Taijuan in the rotation this should easily be a better team. However only 4 of our 14 position players are hitting over .231, with 6 at or below the Mendoza Line. That’s pretty pathetic. Unless they pull their finger out and make some changes then heads should roll. This should be a results oriented organization.
    The Cardinals are loaded with young outfielders. The Cardinals acknowledge that last year’s flood of rookie pitchers has left a gap in their minor-league system as far as arms, but the next wave coming ashore is from the outfield. The Cardinals have as many as six outfielders who have a claim to playing time in Class AAA. At Memphis there is .444-hitting Joey Butler vying for playing time with three priority talents, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, and Stephen Piscotty. The plan at Class AAA is to get Taveras and Piscotty regular work in the corner positions, swapping between left and right. Grichuk, who won a minor-league Gold Glove award last season while in the Angels’ organization, has manned center. Grichuk, 22, had a team-high 13 RBIs and 13 runs for Memphis.

  17. I still don’t see room for Morales right now. Counting on Hart to play RF with any regularity is too risky. Maybe we’ll know more next month. It’s not like Morales could come in and instantly make us better either. It would take a minimum of a few weeks for him to get back into form.

    My feeling is that Morales isn’t a good enough upgrade for the money he’ll want and the roster problems he’ll cause. If we have extra money, I’d rather have it around for a possible trade that could fix a real problem.

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