At what point do Mariners look at Morales?

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comApril 16, 2014 

Caterwauling about the Seattle Mariners’ offense reached its typical level Monday morning. The Mariners were shut out Sunday and shut down during three losses in the prior four games when they scored a total of one run.

Seven runs in Texas on Monday night quelled some of the angst. Yet, a question was often repeated: What about Kendrys Morales?

Morales is a free agent still available after spending last season mostly as an effective designated hitter for Seattle. Morales, 30, hit 23 home runs and had a .785 OPS (on-base plus slugging) during 2013, one of his few healthy full seasons in the big leagues. He also moonlighted as a first baseman during more desperate times last year.

Despite multiple attempts by the club to re-sign Morales, he’s not part of the Mariners.

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik fielded questions at the end of a meet-and-greet with season-ticket holders on opening night at Safeco Field. He was asked about Morales and said the Mariners had offered him a three-year, $30 million contract, which he declined. The offer was made after the All-Star break last season.

The Mariners then made Morales a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer after the season, which he also rejected.

A qualifying offer is equal to the average salary of the 125 top-paid players in the majors the prior season and would bind the player to his current team for one season. Last offseason, 13 players were offered qualifying offers. All declined.

Seattle moved on. It signed Logan Morrison and Corey Hart. Morales continued to be dangled by his agent, Scott Boras, without settling on a deal.

So, Morales waits.

The Mariners are the only team that could sign Morales prior to the June 5 MLB draft without losing a compensatory first-round pick (with the first 10 picks in the draft protected). After that, teams will not be penalized for signing him and his market may open up. Forfeited picks do not go to other big-league teams. Instead, the first round is reduced.

Also, now that the season has begun, Morales cannot be given a qualifying offer at the end of 2014. He would again become a free agent.

There has been a void at designated hitter for the Mariners during the early part of 2014.

Hart is hitting .200. He has struck out 11 times and has eight hits as the team’s primary DH.

Morales will remain a switch-hitting what-if, who comes with injury flags and an agent renowned for pumping up price.

But, there is one thing that trumps all of that: He can hit. Which begs the question if he can still fit with Seattle and, if so, at what price?

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com @Todd_Dybas

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