Kendrys Morales reached the 30-homer mark for the second time in his career, last accomplishing the feat in 2009. His doubles total, however, dropped precipitously, suggesting the designated hitter benefitted from the mystery causing baseballs to leave the yard at a record pace last season. The rest of Morales' skills were in line with his career levels, save for the increase in HR/FB% responsible for the power surge. Unfortunately for Morales, despite the added homers, his runs and RBI were tempered as his teammates collectively struggled. Morales, who will turn 34 near midseason, has amassed over 600 plate appearances in three of the past four seasons. As a switch hitter with stable skill set, there's no reason to be wary of a fall-off. He'll no doubt come at a discount because he's only eligible at a utility spot, again yielding a positive return on investment for those willing to sacrifice roster flexibility. With a move to Toronto as a free agent this offseason, Morales could tack on 20 to 30 combined runs and RBI with relative ease, and the more favorable home park significantly improves his chances of approaching 30 home runs again.
Morales went 2-for-2 with a solo homer and two RBI in his Grapefruit League debut Sunday against the Phillies. Morales wasted no time in getting the team and Jays' faithful excited about their headline acquisition from this offseason. He drove in a run with an infield single in his first at-bat, then sent a ball towering over the right-field fence in the third inning off Phillies' reliever Joaquin Benoit. Morales, who's entering his 11th MLB season at age 33, hit 30 homers and drove in 93 runs with a .795 OPS for Kansas City last season. The year before, he notched 106 RBI and crossed the plate himself 81 times while cracking 22 deep flies. He's booked as the team's DH and will hit from the middle of the Jays' potent lineup. Morales was signed to replace the production lost by Edwin Encarnacion's move to the Indians, and although he can't be expected to put up Encarnacion-type numbers, Morales should be a great source of production and a high draft pick across all leagues.
Morales worked a lot of his defense during the offseason in preparation for a possible platoon role at first base, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reports. Morales seems optimistic about playing a bit more on defense in 2017 than he has in recent seasons, but manager John Gibbons made clear Saturday that Morales playing the field is not part of the plan. "He came here to DH," Gibbons said. "Of course you play interleague games, he'll get those games at first, but that's not his job, that's not why he was brought here. We'll get him out there occasionally." The important note to take away from the coach's comments is that Morales won't lose at-bats during interleague play, putting the 33-year-old on track for a third-straight season of 550-plus at-bats.
Morales agreed to a three-year, $33 million contract with the Blue Jays on Friday, pending a physical, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The veteran got off to a sluggish start in 2016, batting .226 and .163 in April and May, respectively, but he bounced back and finished with 30 homers and 93 RBI for Kansas City. It was his second career 30-homer season and first since 2009. He's an established, switch-hitting middle-of-the-order bat and should help pick up the slack if Edwin Encarnacion and/or Jose Bautista leave in free agency.
Morales was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Royals on Monday, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports. The risk that Morales would actually sign the qualifying offer was simply to great for the Royals to bear, so now Morales is officially able to pursue any free agent contract. Since there's no lost draft pick to sign him anymore, the switch-hitter could command a decent price on the market given his solid power (52 home runs over the past two years).
Morales declined his mutual option Friday, making him a free agent. The Royals will still have a chance to extend a qualifying offer, but Morales will be able to also test the waters of free agency. The switch hitter swatted 30 home runs and drove in 93 runs, which should help him maintain a nice designated hitter role wherever he lands over the winter.