The Blue Jays continue to be linked to Carlos Beltran despite their signing of 1B/DH Kendrys Morales
Carlos Beltran represents an ideal bat to push a lineup from good to great without a significant investment.
Now 39 and coming off a playoff run with the Texas Rangers, Beltran was a sensible fit for the Blue Jays entering the 2016-’17 offseason given his ability to balance the lineup and provide some pop for a fraction of Edwin Encarnacion‘s total cost (and contract years). This likelihood shrunk dramatically with the Blue Jays’ signing of Kendrys Morales — which was made official on Friday — but that hasn’t stopped the two parties from being linked.
This adds to a report from WEEI’s Rob Bradford earlier in the week that the Blue Jays were among a group of teams including the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees who were expressing interest in Beltran.
Given the resurfacing of this link from a second source, it’s worthwhile to examine how the two sided do — and ultimately don’t — fit together.
How this could make sense:
Kendrys Morales does not possess a defensive profile that warrants anything beyond spot starts at first base or emergency action in the corner outfield. This much is known and accepted, which is fine. He’s a bat, not a glove.
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On Friday, however, general manager Ross Atkins suggested that Morales could be used more often than that when speaking with the media. Atkins said that Morales could play a “good deal” of first base, Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote on Friday, and added that the 33-year-old could even see the outfield.
Any major-league team giving Kendrys Morales consistent access to a baseball glove is asking for trouble. He’s made just 20 starts defensively since the beginning of the 2015 season, and even at a position like first base where a poor glove can sometimes be hidden away, he represents a liability.
Does this mean that the Blue Jays are prioritizing left-handed bats and lineup balance above defence and team speed, like the Morales signing itself suggested? And, if DH at-bats remain available, would Carlos Beltran fit as a majority right-fielder and part-time DH? Beltran made 67 starts in right last season, and while he is by no means, a strong defender at this point in his career, the bar set for corner outfield defence from 2016 is not high.
… And why this won’t happen:
It’s conceivable that the Blue Jays maintain some level of interest in Beltran, but an important question ask when a report such as this continues to resurface is: What’s at play here on a deeper level?
Keep in mind that the original report of this listed the Red Sox and Yankees as other interested parties. Could including the Blue Jays here be a piece of leveraging, pinning AL East rivals against one another to increase bidding? Could this interest benefit the Blue Jays by showing Edwin Encarnacion that they have another more affordable option? We don’t know these answers right now, but the questions need to be asked.
Having Beltran and Morales on the same roster creates an overlap that would inhibit the Blue Jays from getting max value out of either player. Both fit as a primary DH on a team needing a solid bat to round out a lineup, but that’s a job already occupied in Toronto for the next three seasons at $33 million.
In that same vein, there’s an argument to be made that a team like New York or Boston needs Beltran more than the Blue Jays do. On the open market, a team in need wins the bidding war nine times out of ten.