Blue Jays: What to do with Kendrys Morales in 2018

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

There are many pros and cons when it comes to Kendrys Morales. The biggest con against him is that he is not, nor ever will be Edwin Encarnacion. Another con is that one square patch on his chin that he shaves that I think looks silly. You know what I’m talking about.

He does have his pros, though. He hits jacks. Real big and far. No doubters. The kind of home run that puts a smirk on your face, even when Mat Latos is starting for some reason and has already given up 8 runs and oh god what is happening. He’s gone deep 27 times this season and should notch 30, a very respectable amount.

The thing is, though, is that he is not Edwin Encarnacion. A very pedestrian walk rate (6.8%) with slightly above average power in this, the year of the home run, has rendered him a below average hitter in terms of wRC+ with a mark of 96. Although these metrics are far from perfect, one could glance at his .755 OPS and conclude that simply put, there’s nothing special here.

Although a .755 OPS or a 96 wRC+ isn’t awful, it’s not something you want from a bat-first player like Morales. It’s not a mark you want from a full-time DH, nor is it a mark you want from somebody who might not even make it to first on a base hit. Remember that time Bautista threw out Billy Butler on a would-be single from the outfield? I remember laughing so hard watching that play. It’s not so funny anymore.

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When you combine all of his deficiencies, Morales becomes a well below-replacement player. If this team plans on contending next year, I’m not sure a -0.7 WAR DH is a good building block in accomplishing that. He’s also signed for $11M the next two years, so he isn’t going anywhere.

However, a big thing about Morales the last couple of years is that he has carried pretty dramatic splits. This season, he’s hitting a gaudy .342/.382/.579 against lefties and a paltry .219/.281/.416 against righties.

Kendrys Morales has an 81 wRC+ against righties. Freddy Galvis has an 86 wRC+ against righties. Freddy Galvis is a better hitter against righties than our full-time DH. That just can’t happen. Ever. Not to anyone. Especially not the 2018 Blue Jays.

My suggestion is a platoon DH. It won’t happen, it’s not efficient and all parties involved would probably be incredibly unhappy, much like my love life. However, a platoon DH could be incredibly productive and help turn a -0.7 WAR black hole into a positive. I think Luca Duda would be a great fit into this would-be platoon. He absolutely murders righties, his nickname is literally “the dude”, and given what we saw this off-season, bat-first players don’t seem like they’re going to be very expensive. Logan Morrison also fits into this category, and if you really wanted to get wild, you could even throw Adam Lind into the conversation given his production this year. There are a lot of cheap options out there.

If I were a betting man, I’d say Ross Atkins particularly regrets this deal. But then, nobody saw the market cratering for hitters the way it did. Edwin ended up going for peanuts. Anybody could have had him. I could have nearly afforded him. I wouldn’t need him to hit 40 homers for me, but maybe he could help clean my house or something. Maybe he makes a mean BBQ. I bet he does.

What’s done is done, though. Kendrys Morales will be paid $22M the next two years, and I think a good way to help recoup some value of that contract is to stop using him against righties so often. Using Kendrys Morales all year has nearly cost this team a win. I think a worthwhile goal, at the very least, is to have some sort of production out of the DH slot that at least leaves us above replacement level rather than a negative mark. That’s not asking much.

Next: Blue Jays: Where will the 2017 September call-ups start 2018?

There are obvious roster implications with this suggestion, but after watching a full season of Kendrys Morales and the double that never was, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed. He does have his strengths, but I don’t think he should be an everyday DH on a (hopefully) contending team next year.