Morales will decline M’s QO? So What.

 As was reported Tuesday by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, Kendrys Morales will decline the qualifying offer the Seattle Mariners are expected to tender. I’m baffled.

No, not at the idea that Morales would decline the qualifying offer that would pay him about $13.8 million in 2014. Not at the idea that Camp Morales, headed by Scott Boras, believes a multi-year option or two will be available on the market. I’m baffled that somehow this is news, and not even because it’s not fact yet. I’m confused as to why this matters.

Were there those out there that actually expected Morales to accept a one-year deal? I wasn’t aware of such persons on planet earth. For those that predicted this would happen, congratulations, you just predicted that Felix Hernandez would throw a fastball in his next start. Here’s your three cents, go pat yourself on the back.

Adam LaRoche, a more accomplished defender but not nearly the consistent, reliable hitter Morales has been, received two years and $24 million guaranteed last offseason. Even if some teams see Morales as a DH — and I know of a few that see Morales as a guy that can play first at last 50-60 times per year, if not more — he’s going to command guaranteed dollars to similar levels. Two years and $20 million? Two and $22 million? Whether Morales is worth that according to whichever value calculator you want to use is besides the point.

What does this mean for Seattle?
Once Seattle makes the QO and Morales officially declines it, the Mariners will be locked into draft-pick compensation if he signs with another club. That fact will make it more difficult for some teams to swallow the idea of doling out some cash on a two-year deal, or longer, plus giving up their first-round pick. And there aren’t any obvious fits among the clubs that select in the Top 10, with the possible exception of the Toronto Blue Jays, who select No. 9, and have a pick at No. 11, too.

What the M’s do by tendering the offer is help themselves keep Morales in Seattle. It’s certainly not automatic, but it helps. If all of the above occurs — the tender, the declining of said tender — the Mariners would be smart to wait out the market. If Morales can find a deal out there the club isn’t comfortable with, they say goodbye, take the pick and continue with their other plans. It’s likely that they’ll be willing to at least match most any deal one could expect Morales to receive.

Rangers, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles
Texas has already been linked to Morales by MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, and in addition to Toronto, possibly, the Rays and Orioles could be a fit for Morales. Joe Maddon likes to keep his roster flexible, however, so to what level the Rays could have interest is unclear, not to mention the financial part of the equation.

The Orioles are in the same boat with Buck Showalter preferring to stay as flexible as possible, though money isn’t as big an issue in Baltimore.

Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com mentioned the Yankees as a possibility on The Steve Sandmeyer Show Tuesday afternoon, but with Mark Teixeira an aging, oft-injured player, they may see the DH spot as one they need to keep wide open. Adding a player like Morales doesn’t necessarily do that, unless they see him as a 120-game option at first base.

How much is Morales worth to Seattle?
I’d say Morales is an important piece to the M’s offseason, particularly if they can get something done early in the offseason and build some momentum on top, giving them a chance — and a real reason — to be major players for a free agent or two.

Morales isn’t a bat you want hitting No. 3 or 4. If that is the case, your likely a club with some offensive deficiencies. If he’s batting fifth or sixth, you’re probably in good shape. How the Mariners find two better bats to hit between Morales and Kyle Seager is another conversation. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if the M’s were willing to beat some two-year offers by all but guaranteeing Morales a third year, if not guaranteeing it outright.

I’ve been tossing out the idea of ‘overpaying’ for two years now and in general I believe clubs should do so only for all-star quality players. Morales doesn’t fit that bill, but the club could do worse than giving Morales a chance to earn $30 million.

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Jason A. Churchill

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