M’s acquire Morales, again

 The Seattle Mariners were finally able to get their guy, again. Designated hitter Kendrys Morales returns to the Emerald City after a brief stint with the Minnesota Twins who acquired reliever Stephen Pryor in exchange for the slugger. Said to be seeking a multi-year deal in the offseason, Morales ended up setting for a one-year deal worth a prorated $12 million with the Twins shortly after the amateur draft in took place in June. Obviously the required draft compensation greatly hindered the market for Morales and despite turning down several offers from the M’s over the past year, he now finds himself with the club he spent the 2013 campaign with.

The 31-year old has struggled in his first 39 games of the season and holds a .234/.259/.325 line across 162 plate appearances. Obviously Morales is a much better hitter than his 57 wRC+ suggests, but after missing Spring Training and the first two-plus months of the season it’s no surprise that he’s struggled to get back to his usual self. He is coming off a 12-game hitting streak however so it’s possible he could be trending upwards and often times joining a pennant race can spark a player.

The switch-hitter doesn’t have the typical platoon splits for a batter of his handedness, but his career 121 wRC+ against right-handed pitching should slot nicely between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the batting order. He also owns a career 95 wRC+ against left-handed pitching which is still an upgrade for the club. Safeco Field didn’t seem to slow Morales down in 2013 as he posted a .811 OPS and 127 wRC+ at home compared to a .759 OPS and 108 wRC+ on the road. Twelve of the slugger’s 23 home runs last year also came at home.

Pryor was once a highly touted pitching prospect with outstanding velocity but his development had stalled as he missed most of the 2013 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. The 25-year old has a 4.65 ERA and 5.35 FIP in 31 innings with Triple-A Tacoma on the year alongside 27 strikeouts and 18 walks. His velocity has been in the 91-93 miles per hour range so far in 2014 but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to get it back up to the 95-96 range that he had shown previously. Pryor will report to the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate and will be under team control through the 2018 season.

[pullquote]Morales appeared at first base in 31 games for Seattle in 2013 and in 12 games so far this year with the Twins. It’s not yet clear whether or not he’ll see any action at the position before the end of the current season while he dons blue and teal.[/pullquote]

It’s expected that Morales will serve as Seattle’s primary designated hitter with Logan Morrison and Corey Hart splitting duties at first in a platoon situation. Both players have had their struggles with injuries and performance this year and interestingly enough, both have opposite platoon splits — Hart owns an 84 wRC+ against right-handers and Morrison owns a 107 wRC+ against left-handers on the year. The newly re-acquired slugger won’t arrive in Seattle until tomorrow so in the meantime, Jesus Montero has been re-called from Triple-A Tacoma and will start tonight at DH.

Obviously this wasn’t the significant upgrade to the offence that many were hoping for, but it is a low cost upgrade that’ll begin to look a lot better if the M’s can add another bat or preferably two within the next week. Morales is due about $4.5 million for the rest of the season so the supposedly cash-strapped Mariners managed to find some change under the sofa cushions in order to facilitate the deal. There’s still a little bit of promise with Pryor, but the M’s can afford to take the chance he develops into something useful given their strong bullpen depth.

It’s a step in the right direction and the fact general manager Jack Zduriencik was willing to pull the trigger was a good sign. I guess the Morales-Mariners saga does get some closure after all the reports of deals that were offered to the slugger over the past calendar year were released, but things would’ve been a whole lot easier if the two parties would’ve been able to reunite long before the start of the 2014 season.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is one that super-agent Scott Boras regrets, though he’ll never admit to it.

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Tyler Carmont

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