The Blue Jays are looking to repeat last year’s offseason successes. After letting David Price move on to a division rival without fielding a competitive offer fans were left confused at the direction the team’s new management envisioned. Fast forward a year, and that decision looks to be a stroke of genius. Boston signed Price to a seven-year deal, in which they’ve agreed to pay $ 30 million for each of his first three years with the club. It’s no secret that a contract of that length does not align with the Jays current competitive window, but number of years aside, the Jays seem to have made a much better investment in Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ.
|Player or Team||Cost (millions)||WAR||
WAR per million $
It’s clear that the Jays received the better return on investment in 2016, gaining nearly 2 WAR while saving $5 million. The Jays were able to allocate that $5 million to other players, such as Darwin Barney for just over $1 million in 2016, who himself contributed 1.5 WAR. I understand the bias here of including one of the Blue Jays’ other lucrative 2016 offseason investments, but I did so in order to illustrate the influence that an extra $5 million can have on a team’s season.
So, now on to the topic at hand, and how the recent signing of Kendrys Morales seems to fall within last year’s strategy. Morales signed for $33 million over the next 3 years. His $11 million average salary is a far cry from what the Jays two departing sluggers are looking to command this off-season. Heyman projects that either of them will likely end up with $20 million per year, on multiple year deals. Though, I personally feel he may be undercutting the value of Encarnacion in a free agent market nearly void of top-tier bats, and that E5 could earn himself over $25 million per year.
While Morales himself is not in the same tier of hitter as Encarnacion and Bautista, he has shown both power and contact throughout his career. In 2015, Morales stroked his way to a 130 wRC+, featuring a .290 batting average and 22 home runs. In 2016, Morales took a different approach: his batting average dropped to .263 but his HR total increased to 30. Morales also saw his strikeout rate rise by 3.3%. Morales’ 2016 seems to fit in with the Blue Jays fairly well – and 2016 is a perfect example of this. In 2016 the Jays ranked 3rd in the AL in homers. However, they ranked 12th in both K’s and AVG.
As we’ve seen two different versions of Kendrys Morales over the past two years it is difficult to project his 2017. However, some factors of this change of scenery remain independent of his approach, and they all seem to play in his favour. In 2016 Kauffman Stadium suppressed home runs at a 0.783 rate. Conversely, Rogers Centre played roughly even at 1.010. In addition, Kauffman suppressed nearly all batting outcomes in relation to Rogers Centre aside from triples, which isn’t necessarily in Morales’ playbook. Furthermore, even with the departure of two star hitters, the Blue Jays lineup arguably provides more support than the Royals. Furthermore, Morales will likely slot in behind Josh Donaldson, which will allow him plenty of RBI opportunities.
In Kendrys Morales, the Blue Jays gain a middle of the order DH while allowing for other moves in the future. It’s no secret that the Jays have their fair share of holes. Their opening day outfield currently projects to a combination of Ezequiel Carrera, Kevin Pillar, and Melvin Upton – which leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive side of the ball. The Jays will also need to secure a backup catcher as Navarro is a free agent and the team isn’t likely to retain the services of Josh Thole. Finally, the bullpen will need to be addressed, hopefully with inspiration drawn from the recent successes of teams that feature 2-3 ‘closer-type’ arms at the back of their pen.
In summation, I feel that the Jays made an intelligent move in signing Morales, which will allow them to build the team in other positions of need. The Jays’s current commitments for 2017 are within the range of $120 million – short of the Jays’ previously reported payroll of $140, which Mark Shapiro has hinted will increase in 2017. The remaining salary space could be used to corral Dexter Fowler to be the lead off for the Jays in 2017. As well, there are two very big bullpen arms available in Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. The Jays’ have a real opportunity to address their needs through free agency, and I think they will have a busy and productive offseason.
FUN FACT: Aroldis Chapman is reportedly seeking a long-term deal. The last reliever to be signed to a contract of 5 or more years was BJ Ryan, signed by the Blue Jays in 2005.