New York Mets News

Mets Should Pursue Kendrys Morales

By Jason Mast

Sep 1, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners designated hitter

Kendrys Morales

(8) bats during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets, who rank 19th in the majors in runs and 27th in OPS, need an offensive boost. Sandy Alderson and the front office have acknowledged this. But instead of making slimsy long term suggestions that can have no bearing on this season, such as proposing to bring in the Citi Field walls yet again, Sandy Alderson should make an obvious and immediate move: sign free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales after tonight’s MLB draft.

At that point, any obstacle to signing Morales would be gone. As the draft will have passed, he would no longer cost the Mets their first round pick. And money should not be an issue. Alderson has said since March that New York has payroll space for a major addition this summer. Reports project the veteran first baseman to go for as low as 2-3 million. At maximum, he should command the pro-rated version of the 14.1 million dollar qualifying, or approximately 9 million dollars, 500 thousand less than the the 9.5 million the Mets offered Drew last January. The actual pricetag will probably fall somewhere in between.

This should not an indictment of current starting first baseman Lucas Duda‘s performance, who has performed adequately since the team traded Ike Davis to the Pirates. To date, Duda has been a more or less league average first baseman. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he currently ranks 16th among qualifying major league first baseman in OPS, 17th in home runs, 14th in slugging, and 12th in on base percentage.

But factor out his statistics against lefthanders, and you get a much different picture. Playing only against righties, “The Hulk” would rank ninth with an .841 OPS, 10th with a .352 on base percentage, and again ninth with a .489 slugging percentage, all while playing in the worst hitter’s park in baseball.

Conversely, against lefthanders, Duda owns an anemic .185/.267/.185 line this year, a .221/.299/.328 line for his career. He’s simply not cut out to play every day.

Morales, although a switch hitter, has always played better agaainst lefties. Since he came up with the Angels in 2008, his OPS is just over 100 points higher from the right side than the left.

When not playing first, Morales could serve as a pinch hitter-extraordinaire off the bench. He would certainly be an upgrade over Eric Campbell or Andrew Brown against southpaws and offers more power potential than any other player currently on the Mets bench.

For a team that has left more runners in scoring position than all but one other team in baseball, Morales also offers another service: clutch hitting. Although not generally mentioned in the context of baseball’s top pressure performers, Morales has performed remarkably well in tight spots. For his career, he has hit .291 with an .871 OPS with runners in scoring position, .277 with a .786 OPS without. Last year with Seattle, he was arguably even better, hitting .312 in the clutch.

The concern for the Met and other national league executives regarding Morales has always been his defense, as he is viewed in the industry as more of a DH. But Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports reported last week that both AL and NL teams have expressed interest in the free agent slugger, indicating that there are MLB scouts and executives who view him as a passable fielder at first base. It’s not as if the Mets would be dropping from a position of strength; Lucas Duda is not exactly a gold glover.

The risk of such an investment could not be lower. It would almost certainly be on a one year deal, as Morales is seeking to test free agency and sign a more lucrative contract next winter. And if the Mets fall out of the playoff race, they could always absorb most of his 2014 salary and flip him to a contender for a prospect.

Don’t hold your breadth, though. The Mets have not expressed any interest in or been linked in any recent report to the free agent first baseman. But if Alderson wants to bolster his lineup without sacrificing any prospects or pieces for the future, this is the way to go.