The Kansas City Royals elected not to hand Kendrys Morales a qualifying offer, making him a more desirable free agent. They would like to keep him but will have to compete with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays for his services.
By not handing him a qualifying offer, the Royals made sure teams wouldn’t have to give up a draft pick to sign him. While they could use the draft pick, the didn’t want to pay him over $17 million for one season. Morales has been quite productive for the Royals as a DH over the last two years, including hitting four home runs in their 2015 postseason run that ended with a World Series. However, they’re willing to try and reach a deal that costs less per annum.
Morales isn’t the best slugger out there in this free agency class, as both Edwin Encarnacion and Yoenis Cespedes will be getting bigger offers and more interest. But because there’s no draft pick price-to-pay, Morales becomes a very good compromise for teams that didn’t land the bigger fish or simply can’t spend that much. He is 33 and did have a slow start in 2016, but he rarely missed games over the last two years and hit 52 home runs while batting .277 with a .821 OPS. That’s worth spending 8 figures for, probably.
The Yankees have shown interest in Encarnacion, and the Red Sox have to. The Blue Jays are hoping to hold on to Encarnacion but if he does leave, it opens up some salary space for them. They can use it to sign Morales and possibly hold on to Jose Bautista, but it’s not quite clear how much Toronto wants to stick with their most prolific player of the last few years considering his wage demands and declining production.
And how much will Morales want? He was due to make $11 million in 2017 (made $9.5 million in 2016), but everyone expected him to opt out. Most assumptions hover around the $25-26 million on a two-year deal, maybe throw in a third-year kicker with some vesting option. Perhaps he’s been underestimated and could be looking for a mammoth deal, but it just doesn’t make sense, because that kind of approach in this free agency market could end up hurting him instead of lining him up with the highest paid players in Baseball. He’s simply not that good, and especially not that young.