Blue Jays, Kendrys Morales, and the only trade fit I can find

TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on May 20, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during MLB game action against the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre on May 20, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

It’s almost universally agreed that Kendrys Morales and his contract are not tradable, but I think I may have found a reasonable solution.

As the Blue Jays continue their tough stretch of games lately, the winds of change are starting to blow, at least according to fans wanting to see the ship get righted in a hurry. Whether that means calling up a certain young phenom, or cutting some dead weight on a veteran contract, it feels like something has to be done.

When it comes to the latter described above, the leading candidate would be Kendrys Morales, who has struggled to a .163/.248/.279 slash line, hitting just three home runs and eleven RBI in 104 at bats thus far. As far as social media is concerned, Morales should have been dumped weeks ago, even as the Blue Jays go through a tough stretch of injuries to their 25 and 40 man rosters.

The problem is multi-faceted when it comes to Morales, as his DH-only skill set doesn’t help when it comes to roster flexibility, or for him to accrue value in other areas than at the plate. When you’re staring in the face of a situation with too many outfielders, once everyone is healthy of course, then finding room for Morales on the roster gets that much more difficult to justify. Add in the fact that he’s making 11 million this season, and is due 12 million in 2019, and it’s a very bitter pill to swallow. I feel bad routinely picking on the guy, but this feels like cutting him is a decision that is inevitable at this point.

More from Jays Journal

There really only are three ways this could end: 1) He starts hitting and we forget the first month and a half of the season, 2) He’s designated for assignment and the Blue Jays have to pay him out the remainder of his contract, or 3) He’s traded to another team.

Many Blue Jays fans have wondered aloud why the front office hasn’t moved Morales, but it’s not that simple. They have to find a taker for the contract, and that’s without having to take something that could potentially end up even worse. The hardest part of moving Morales is the fact that he’s pretty much a DH-only player at this point, as he’s anything but as asset at first base these days. Teams have also moved away from this type of set-up in recent years, preferring instead to use a variety of hitters at DH, or at least have the regular guy be able to play the field once in awhile.

This reality limits Morales’ appeal to just the American League, and even then the pickings are pretty slim in terms of teams with a need, even if he were hitting. In fact, as I scanned through the list of AL teams, I only found one team that I could realistically dream up a scenario with, and I present it to you now.

The Blue Jays should get the Royals to take Morales back.

Simple right? Well, not really, especially because the Royals are just 14-33 as of this writing. Adding a veteran bat doesn’t usually register very highly for teams in the basement, and the Royals are pretty much where they were expected to be this season after losing several valuable veterans. They are in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and that means they’ve got a few pricey veterans still hanging around too, which is why the possibility of a trade exists at all if you ask me. There’s also this report from Jon Heyman that there was interest in a reunion at one time, although it’s hard to say how far back that goes, and Morales putrid performance has likely changed those feelings.

There are two possibilities here in my eyes, at least in terms of talking points that could get the Royals to actually consider such a trade. Remember, if they have faith that Morales could rebound, he can likely be had for the veteran’s minimum a few weeks after he’s theoretically cut by the Blue Jays, so giving anything of value in return is out of the question. In order to get the Royals to take any financial responsibility for the Cuban switch-hitter, they’d likely want to send a contract back.

  • Ian Kennedy– 16.5 million this season, and 16.5 million for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
  • Alex Gordon– 20 million owed in 2018-19, 23 million dollar option for 2020, with a six million dollar buy out.

I’m not sure the Blue Jays should even think about barking up the Gordon tree, as they already have a potential glut of outfielders to find playing time for in the next few years. Kennedy on the other hand, could be an outside the box solution, even if he’s an expensive one.

The 33 year old has struggled again this season, posting a 4.98 ERA in nine starts and 47 innings pitched. He’s been pretty poorly since last season began, and considering the amount of money he’s still owed, I’m sure the Royals would be happy to see him go. It’s hard to say what kind of upside and/or value you’d get in return for him, but pitchers who can get big league hitters out will find a job.

For the Blue Jays the fit might make some sense, especially with the rotation question marks they have going forward. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez each have two years of control left before they become free agents. J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada are each on expiring contracts, and the Jays have an option on Jaime Garcia‘s contract for 2019, although he’ll need to start performing for them to have interest in bringing him back. As far as minor league arms are concerned, the crop is pretty thin, although they’ve received encouraging starts from Sean Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano, and Ryan Borucki this year.

Kennedy is far from an ideal solution, but he would give them an arm to fill out the rotation going forward, and an opportunity to rid themselves of Morales’ place on the roster. It would be far more convenient if he was cheaper and didn’t have that 2020 season on his contract, but you would theoretically get something in return for your investment in Kennedy. He posted a 0.5 bWAR last season and has a 0.1 mark so far, while Morales was at -0.2 last year, and is already sitting at -0.8 for 2018. If the Royals would consider a similar deal for Danny Duffy (14 million this season. 46 million remaining through 2021) or Jason Hammel (9 million this season, 12 million in 2019), I’d say explore that too, but that seems far less likely to me.

The more likely scenario would be one of the first two options mentioned above, with either Morales figuring things out enough to justify keeping him around, or eventually the Blue Jays having to cut bait with him. Maybe then the Royals give him a shot to revitalize his career, but at the moment things are heading downhill in a hurry. The fact that I actually think trading for Ian Kennedy is an idea worth exploring is a reflection of where things are at, and they’re not good.

Next: Russell Martin willing to play anywhere on the diamond