Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are looking at possibly signing Kendrys Morales. The interest in the 30-year old Morales seems very odd for numerous reasons. Morales is a switch-hitting DH/1B with very good power. He’s ran a .200 ISO for his career, comfortably above the league average, and especially notable given the hitting difficulties created by his home parks. He rarely walks (career 6.8% BB rate) and strikes out a lot (17.9% K rate). That combination leads to modest OBPs that are even less valuable when considering that he is an extremely slow runner. He is truly station-to-station and it may take 3 singles to score him. UZR (career 17.1) and DRS (career 16) like his defense at first base but he hasn’t played a substantial amount of innings there since 2009 and should really be viewed as a DH/emergency 1B.
The Yankees need to leave the DH spot open for aging players like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and (pending trial) Alex Rodriguez. The rotating DH model has been adopted by virtually all American League teams as there just isn’t enough roster space to carry a bat-only player (especially when teams sub-optimally carry 12 or 13 pitchers). The Yankees epitomize the need to leave the DH position wide open with aging position players and a questionable pitching staff that might need 13 arms to feature quantity over quality.
Also, the cost to sign Morales is pretty substantial. Morales was offered a qualifying offer and declined so the Yankees would need to forfeit a first round draft pick, 18th overall, to sign him. The Yankees are not really in a position to be giving up draft selections and the accompanying slot money for a 1-2 WAR DH when they are not clear contenders and their farm system has failed to churn out Major League quality players in recent years. Morales’ agent is Scott Boras who will assuredly attain top dollar for his client. A 3 yr/$30-35 mil deal is entirely possible.
Finally, the Yankees have far more pressing needs than a DH whose perceived value is much greater than his actual value and will be paid accordingly. Second base is the first order of business that needs to be resolved. The catcher position is a question mark even if they plan to tender a contract to Francisco Cervelli. The rotation is CC Sabathia a year after his worst professional season, a pitcher who has never put together a full season of quality performance in Ivan Nova, and three question marks with the departures of Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and possibly Huroki Kuroda. The left side of the infield needs depth with the uncertainty surrounding Jeter and ARod. Even an upgrade over the Vernon Wells/Ichiro Suzuki right field platoon would be a better utilization of resources.
After playing his whole career in pitchers’ parks, maybe Morales can unlock some more power in Yankee Stadium. Morales is a solid hitter, but there are too many other reasons for why the Yankees should pass.