Major League Baseball free agency period got underway today, and several teams are already showing interest in Kendrys Morales.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post is reporting that the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays are among three AL East teams that have reached out to the 33-year-old designated hitter. Sherman added that New York Yankees would also be interested in Morales if they can trade DH/catcher Brian McCann this offseason.
Morales is currently a free agent after the Kansas City Royals decided against extending him a qualifying offer. He has spent the last two years with the Royals, compiling a robust 0.277/0.344/0.476 batting line and 52 home runs over 1,257 plate appearances. Morales led the team with 30 home runs and knocked in 93 runs though he also struck out 120 times in 2016.
Morales is almost strictly a DH at this point of his career; however, he also did see time at first base and right field. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Morales will obtain a two-year, $26 million deal – which would essentially double his salary last season ($6.5 million).
Baltimore, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City, and Texas could also possibly pursue Morales. Royals’ general manager Dayton Moore told the MLB’s Jeffrey Flanagan this afternoon that the team does indeed have an interest in re-signing Morales.
Boston is the team most in need of a DH of any of the three teams listed above due to David Ortiz’s retirement. The Red Sox have also been linked to Edwin Encarnacion, Carlos Beltran, and Michael Kopech per SB Nation.
Boston (93-69) earned their first playoff berth and won the AL East for the first time in three years this past season. The Red Sox won 15 more games last year then they did in 2015 thanks in large part to their top-ranked offense. They led the Majors in runs, batting average, home runs, and slugging percentage. And David Ortiz was a big reason for the team’s success, leading the team in homers (38), RBIs (127), and finishing third in batting average (.315).
The Red Sox have seven free agents this year. Infielder Aaron Hill along with relievers Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler being the most notable of the group.
Encarnacion is one of the biggest names on the free agent market. The soon-to-be-34-year-old has been one of the top sluggers in the AL since 2012. Encarnacion has hit 193 homers during the past five years, which includes two-40 homer seasons (2012, 2016).
Encarnacion has spent the last seven-and-a-half years of his career in Toronto after spending the first four-and-a-half years in Cincinnati. He hit 42 homers and drove in a league-high 127 runs while batting.263 last season.
Toronto is expected to make a big push to keep Encarnacion according to Shi Davidi of SportsNet Canada. The Blue Jays extended a $17.2 million qualifying offer to Encarnacion, who reportedly would like to stay with the team, prior to Monday’s deadline. While Encarnacion is still not strictly a DH as he appeared in 75 games at first base, he really can’t play the outfield or third base anymore.
Texas, Baltimore, Houston, and the Yankees are also potential suitors for Encarnacion.
Toronto (89-73) earned its second consecutive playoff appearance. The Blue Jays earned the first wild card spot this past year and defeated the Orioles in the one-game wild card game before sweeping the Rangers. They then fell to the Cleveland Indians in the AL Championship Series in five games.
Toronto currently has 16 free agents with Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Michael Saunders being the most significant. The trio combined to hit 86 homers and drove in 252 runs. Bautista, like Encarnacion, has a qualifying offer on the table. If the Blue Jays lose one of the three players mentioned above, then and only then would they likely pursue Morales.
Starter R.A. Dickey, catcher Dioner Navarro, reliever Brett Cecil, and shortstop Darwin Barney are the other Jays important free agents.
McCann has a no trade clause and will have the last call whether he will be traded tweeted Andrew Marchand of ESPN. Marchand added that Gary Sanchez will be the first string catcher going forward and that McCann may not want to stick around if he is just a part-time DH.
McCann hit 0.242 to go along with 22 homers and 58 runs batted in 130 games last season. He has two more guaranteed years left on the five-year, $85 million contract that he signed in 2014. His contract for the 2019 season will become fully vested if he reaches certain numbers in 2017-18.
The Yankees finished fourth in the AL East with a 84-78 record. The Yanks don’t have any real major free agents.
[Featured Image by Charlie Riedel/AP Images]