Blue Jays: Five First Base Options If Justin Smoak Struggles
Kendrys Morales- Veteran Powerhouse
Since his arrival in Toronto, Kendrys Morales has been underwhelming to say the least. Even though he slugged 28 home runs and managed 25 doubles, his average dropped 20 points below his career norms and produced a meager 97 wRC+, not ideal for a man earning $11 million annually in salary over the next two seasons.
Although his offensive value remains enigmatic, his defensive versatility is limited, but easily overlooked. In 398 career games at first, Morales has committed just 19 errors, playing as many as 152 games in a single season in the field. Last year, he played 12 games (103.2 innings) at first for the Jays, making one error. For his career, he’s been worth a terrific 14.5 UZR. Adjusted for his career regression, he’s worth 5.7 UZR, still above average in the American League.
He may be slow and often clumsy, but his glove is solid enough to play the position in a limited role. He’s also got some experience elsewhere when you consider that he played over 100 innings in the outfield, some of them as recently as 2016. Additionally, he’ll already be on the major league roster come April, eliminating the need to spend a roster spot on a first base replacement. Just like Solarte, he’ll be there regardless of what Smoak does, so having him as an option is quite valuable.
He’ll be entering his age 35 season, so expect some regression with the glove. Still, Jays fans have been disappointed with the former Royals slugger, and his newfound use could be satisfying to fans who wished they’d spent his salary elsewhere.