COMMENTARY | The upcoming offseason figures to be a busy one for the Seattle Mariners.
With more than $30 million coming off the books and a general manager who desperately needs to show major progress to avoid losing his job, the team figures to be searching hard for free agents to complement its solid young core.
Someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury might be a pipe dream, but the Mariners will likely give both at least a look. However, the team does have one in-house option among its cast of veterans that would be worth re-signing.
Slugger Kendrys Morales came over before the 2013 season in a trade for Jason Vargas from the Los Angeles Angels, and he has preformed pretty well at a relatively low price. The switch-hitter batted .276/.334/.445 with 22 home runs for the reasonable value of $5.25 million.
As a Scott Boras client, Morales did not talk about an extension with the Mariners during the regular season, but you have to figure the club was interested in keeping him for 2014. If he was to be a one-year rental, it would have made much more sense for Seattle to trade him away for some sort of value
He can be an asset to the 2014 team. Morales' numbers aren't anything eye-popping, and he won't make for a fearsome cleanup hitter, but both his average and power stats are consistent and solid. He will bring stability to the designated hitter position, which the Mariners have been searching for year after year. His strikeout rate is down from 2012 and his walk rate is up, an encouraging sign that he can remain as productive the next few years.
Morales's switch-hitting skill set can also help to spell Justin Smoak at first base, who has struggled tremendously with left-handed pitching during his career, hitting .191 this season. The Mariners have had difficulties with lefties all year long, which Morales can also help with as he has hit .276 from both sides of the plate.
Of course, re-signing Morales will come at a much higher cost than his salary this season. Something like $13-14 million is what the club is probably expecting. Still, even that will be more value for the money than some of the top-line free agents, and teams like the Mariners have to be smart with their spending. It might be true that the club would be overpaying, but it's much better to overpay a veteran who is 30 years old than one who is 35.
Signing Morales won't be a make-or-break move for the 2014 Mariners squad. But he can be a decent piece to a team that really needs to show signs of being competitive.
Nathaniel Reeves is a lifelong Seattle sports follower who is studying journalism at the University of Washington. He currently covers sports for The UW Daily.
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