Royals fans have been clamoring for General Manager Dayton Moore to do something(anything!) this offseason and it looks like he has done just that, signing Kendrys Morales to a 2 year, $17mm deal with incentives. The deal is for less than what former Royal Billy Butler got in Oakland but it also raises some questions about the Royals going forward.
The obvious question is whether Morales’ 2014 season was an aberration or the beginning of a decline. Morales was late to sign with a team last season, waiting until June 8th to sign with Minnesota, as teams were afraid to give up a first round compensatory pick to sign him. Morales struggled with the Twins, putting up a slash line of .234/.259/.325 in 39 games. Morales was traded back to his former team, Seattle, in July and didn’t do much better, hitting .207/.285/.347 in 59 games. It’s hard to tell if Morales struggled because of his skipping Spring Training and not playing until June or it was the beginning of a decline. Just one year earlier in Seattle he put up a .277/.336/.449 line, hitting 23 bombs and an OPS + of 123. If 2014 was a blip on the radar than this looks like a solid deal for Kansas City. But there are concerns this is more of a decline, as Morales is turning 32 this year and his ISO(Isolated Power, which measures a batters raw power; the final result measures how many extra bases a player averages per at bat) has declined every year since his 2010 broken ankle that cost him almost two years of baseball. There is a good chance that last year’s numbers for Morales was purely him sitting out for the first two months of the season and not participating in Spring Training to work out any rust or kinks. Or it was the beginning of a downward turn in production.
Just bringing Morales in posts a numbers of interesting questions, including this one: if the Royals wanted to go to a floating DH, why would you let your current DH leave(Butler) just to sign another DH? We’ve heard for the last two years that the team wanted to venture into an area that alot of American League teams are already implementing, which is not having a set DH and rotating players around that spot. The reasoning for Kansas City was to make the team more athletic while giving some of their players(Perez, Gordon, etc.) some time off in the field. Like I said, this has been talked about for over two years now and was highly discussed this winter during negotations with Butler. Why the team would turn 180 degrees and change their stance is puzzling to say the least. There are some that think this was done in a way to get Butler out of town, but I’m not so much of a conspiracy theorist to believe that is actually the truth. I do believe the market plays a big part in this decision, as the team has been on the prowl for an outfield bat this offseason. It become apparent quickly that the Royals were going to either offer an outfielder more money than they were initially willing to or scrounge the trade market to find this bat, and it appears they didn’t like that market either. Also heavily playing in this discussion is Moore’s inability to want to part with one of three highly regarded bullpen arms(Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera). I felt this would be the smarter way to go this winter, but Dayton must feel they are just too valuable to the success of this Royals team to pull that trigger. With that said, this obviously left the Royals with very few options and Morales must have looked like the best choice.
The question is going to get asked, so lets answer it; if the Royals are not rotating the DH spot now, wouldn’t a younger Billy Butler be the better option for Kansas City? This is probably one of the most loaded questions a Royals fan can ask, but I will attempt to answer it. In theory it would appear Butler would be the better option; he is younger, has more upside and the Royals would already know what they are getting. But with Billy there is also the question of whether he is on a decline as well. His 2013 wasn’t spectacular, but 2014 was easily Butler’s worst major league season and his power has really gone M.I.A. the last two years. You could make the argument that Morales’ chances of producing more power are higher, and and he has a more consisent history of proven power. I would like to think Butler would have been the better option over Morales, even if the Royals had just picked up Butler’s $12mm option for 2015. But it might just be an argument of one declining player over the other.
How you feel about this signing is probably hindered on whether or not you feel 2014 was an anamoly for Morales. If it was, this would appear to be a good acquisition by Dayton and will help the Royals offense in 2015. I tend to sit in the camp that believes Morales is on the decline and the numbers we saw from him last year are probably close to what we will see next year. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the rotating DH scenario, but I easily preferred it over this. It appears the flexibility on this team has gone down again, barring another move. I’m hoping I am wrong about Morales and we see the guy who has a major offensive force for the Angels and Mariners in the past. I fear instead the Royals just fit themselves with a two year albatross around their neck that will weigh this team down.