Blue Jays: Morales has been exactly what we should have expected

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 31: Kendrys Morales
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 31: Kendrys Morales /

The Blue Jays managed to out slug the Orioles on Thursday night, picking up an 11-8 victory on the strength of three Kendrys Morales home runs. The Cuban slugger has struggled a bit this year, but Thursday was a night to remember.

The Blue Jays and their fan base have largely shifted their focus to 2018 and beyond with just a month remaining in this season’s schedule. You can’t blame anyone for that either, as they are 62-72 and 8.5 out of the second Wild Card position with just 28 games to play. This season is undoubtedly over.

And as the focus shifts to next season, most of us begin by asking what went wrong in 2017. We’re almost all familiar with the long list of injuries and underperformance, as the team has been without several All-Stars throughout the campaign, and it’s no doubt hurt their performance. It’s easy to have more hope for guys like Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, and more when they’re getting a fresh, and hopefully healthy slate.

There have been other issues for the Blue Jays this year, as some players who have managed to stay healthy have greatly underperformed. Jose Bautista and Marco Estrada immediately come to mind, but there have also been others. One of the players who gets talked about the most for underperforming is Kendrys Morales, who joined the free this past offseason in free agency.

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First of all, we should all know by now that it was and is unfair to compare the Cuban slugger to Edwin Encarnacion, who he essentially replaced. Encarnacion is a premier hitter, and as a result he commanded 20 million AAV on a four year deal (let’s not get into how this was muffed by both sides, again). For three years and 33 million, the Blue Jays hoped to get serviceable production from their DH spot, and felt Morales and and Rogers Centre might be a marriage made in heaven.

While he hasn’t been elite by any means, Morales hasn’t been as bad as some people seem to think he has. After his three-homer evening against the Orioles on Thursday, he’s up to 25 home runs and 70 RBI. You’d like to see that RBI total a little higher, but this team hasn’t performed in the OBP category all season long, and as a result everyone except for Justin Smoak is having a down year in the RBI category.

Last season with the Royals, Morales hit .263/.327/.468 with 30 home runs and 93 RBI. This season in Toronto, he’s hitting .253/.311/.462 to go with his 25 HR, and 70 RBI. With 28 games remaining, Morales could end up with 30 or more home runs, and over 80 RBI. While it’s not All-Star level production, it’s more or less what he’s been for the last number of years. So why are so many Blue Jays fans surprised?

First, we had all hoped to see him take advantage of the Rogers Centre, rather than the pitcher’s haven in Kansas City. Secondly, Morales has been very streaky this year as I mentioned above, so it’s easy to remember the times when he’s struggled, despite the fact that he’s single-handedly won several games this year (okay, not literally, but you know what I mean). He’s also remarkably slow on the base paths, which doesn’t help.

However, I think the biggest reason people are critical of him is his lack of flexibility, and it where it leaves the rest of the roster. If he were say, a capable outfielder, the Blue Jays could have given Bautista and Steve Pearce more rest at DH, or used the spot to give a half-day off to guys like Tulowitzki or Josh Donaldson. Instead, they didn’t have the kind of freedom they enjoyed with Encarnacion able to play first, and with a veteran team that proved to be a little more costly than many anticipated.

It’s been discussed on several media outlets that the Blue Jays could look to move the switch-hitting DH in the offseason, but a quick glance at the market doesn’t make that seem terribly likely. Most of the American League has their DH position either locked up, or in a flexible state with several veterans utilizing the position, so the trade options are very limited. Because of that, I think it’s safe to say we can expect Kendrys Morales in a Jays’ uniform for the remainder of his contract, which is two more season.

Next: Tulowitzki will be hard pressed to retire at SS

But hey, it could definitely be a lot worse than that. He wasn’t a star, but he put up similar numbers to his recent standards, and did it for 11 million. What did we really expect?