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Blue Jays: Despite hot streak, Kendrys Morales is still tough to trade

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 22: Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a solo home run in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on August 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 22: Kendrys Morales #8 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a solo home run in the seventh inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on August 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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He might be the hottest hitter in the Blue Jays lineup these days, but that doesn’t make Kendrys Morales any more likely to get traded this month, unfortunately.

There’s no arguing about who is the hottest Blue Jay hitter right now. With home runs in four consecutive games, Kendrys Morales has been on fire at the plate, and was at it again on Wednesday afternoon.

As most of you are well aware, the 35 year old had a tremendously difficult start to the 2018 season, and was routinely the subject of discussions about being designated for assignment and released. He hit just .160/.259/.240 in the month of April, and started spending a lot more time on the bench. For a bat-only player like Morales, that’s when the whispers of a DFA got louder, and for awhile it looked like a real possibility.

Fortunately he’s really turned his season around, and he’s even pushed his bWAR value up to 1.0 at this stage in the season. In fact, if you look at strictly what he’s done since June 1st, the Cuban veteran has hit .289/.373/.517 with 13 home runs and 30 RBI in just 211 at bats. That’s really solid production right there.

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With Morales’ recent hot streak, some Blue Jays fans have started wondering aloud if he could be a trade candidate in the final week of August. He’s been the best hitter on the Blue Jays lately, and someone swinging a red hot bat like that could be appealing to a contender, especially for the stretch run. Right?

As good as he’s been, I sincerely doubt there will be any interest.

I’m not trash-talking Morales here at all, so don’t think this is some sort of attack on him. He’s been good lately, and he’s gone from a guy who I dreaded seeing coming to the plate, to someone who I’m borderline excited to watch. Unfortunately that doesn’t make him any more appealing to a contender, for a few very valid reasons.

First and foremost, there’s the whole business of him having another year left on his contract. He’s due another 12 million in the last season of the three year pact he signed with Toronto before the 2017 season, and that will be a bigger obstacle than people realize. Unless the Blue Jays are sending a bunch of money to cover next year’s salary, I don’t see there being a lot of interest for a new team to retain him beyond the stretch run of this season.

The biggest reason for that is he can’t play a defensive position, and in today’s MLB that’s a serious detriment to your value. Baseball is evolving at a more rapid pace than I can ever remember, and bat-only guys like Morales are all but being phased out of the game. I could envision a team being interested in having him around for September and into the playoffs with the way he’s hitting, but what about next season? Unless a team acquires him with full intentions of cutting him this winter, it’s hard to imagine there being a lot of interest, unless of course the Blue Jays pick up the cheque.

His lack of glove ability also all but eliminates him from the National League market. It’s possible someone could view him as a potential bat off the bench, and that’s a role he’d probably fill nicely, but I can’t see it happening. If he were on an expiring contract, then maybe someone would pick him up as a pinch-hitting specialist, but for now I think we can rule out the senior circuit. And as far as the AL contenders go, I’m not sure how big the need is for a DH type.

The Red Sox have J.D. Martinez, Cleveland has Edwin Encarnacion, and then the last three playoff spots will come down to the Astros, Yankees, and Mariners. When their roster is healthy the Yankees like to use Giancarlo Stanton at DH, and Aaron Judge should be back before the real important games begin. The Astros have been creative with their lineup lately, but Morales would have to battle for playing time with Evan Gattis at DH, who has 24 home runs this season, and probably others once Jose Altuve is back. And lastly, the Mariners have Nelson Cruz and he’s not going anywhere.

Again, it’s not that Morales can’t still hit or help a big league team. It’s the combination of his lack of defensive abilities, and the remaining year on his contract that make it nearly impossible to trade him, even if he’s been pretty good for the last three months. Maybe the Blue Jays’ front office will shock me and either send some hefty cash and/or take on a contract in return, but I don’t see how they’ll be able to swing a deal in the next week regardless.

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If he finishes the season strong, maybe then the Blue Jays could find a taker before the 2019 season. It would be nice to open up the position for at bats for other veterans, especially as some younger talent starts to take over on the 25 man roster. Whatever happens down the road, the Blue Jays should be thankful they’ve got Morales for the time being anyway. He’s been tearing the cover off the ball, but I’m afraid that likely won’t be enough to get him traded.

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