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June 9, 2014

Transaction Analysis

Minnesota Signs Kendrys Morales

by R.J. Anderson and Bret Sayre

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Signed DH-S Kendrys Morales to a one-year deal worth a prorated $12 million. [6/7]

You have to give Terry Ryan credit for effort. Since last season ended, Ryan has tried at every turn to improve his roster. He isn't delusional; he knows this bunch, as constructed, is not good enough to make a playoff run. But why not, he must figure, give the fans, corporate sponsors, coaches, and so on the benefit of an improved product? After all, Ryan is sacrificing cash here, not prospects or draft picks. In exchange, Ryan gets a good hitter on a one-year deal at a reduced cost. In case you've forgotten, here's what we wrote about Morales entering the offseason:

After missing the 2011 season, Morales has picked up where he left off. Perhaps the purest switch-hitter on the market, he's posted an identical OPS against lefties and righties the past two seasons. Morales' above-average power production has always came with a tendency for him to put the ball in play; that saves him the indignity of high strikeout rates, but it leaves him with a bare walk total, too. The Cuban native has played the past two seasons mostly at designated hitter, and he doesn't add value on the basepaths, so he'll have to continue to hit be worth his deal.

There won't be a Stephen Drew-like optional assignment with Morales, instead he'll be with the Twins from the jump. As for how he'll fit into the lineup, look no further than the DH spot. Through Minny's first 60 games, Ron Gardenhire has started just one player more than 10 times at DH; that being Josmil Pinto, who has started 19 times. Gardenhire can now move Pinto to catcher with Morales around, which allows Kurt Suzuki to take on a more traditional backup catcher role. Just like that, the Twins have upgraded in two spots with one move.

The best-case scenario sees Morales go nuts with the bat and/or get traded for a nice prospect down the stretch. The worst? Morales takes time to readjust to game action, enters a prolonged slump, and walks at the season's conclusion without adding much to the discussion. Either way, there's not much to dislike about this deal.

Fantasy Impact: Morales really doesn't seem to have any interest in making things easier on himself. After playing his first seven major league seasons in Anaheim and Seattle, two parks that are tough on left-handed power, Morales is actually to Target Field, which is even tougher. And while he does have the advantage of being a switch-hitter, he's historically hit much better from the left side (career .839 OPS) than the right (career .736 OPS). So those who picked him up in AL-only or mixed formats at the beginning of the season, hoping he would call Baltimore or New York home, are likely to be somewhat disappointed by this news. Look on the bright side: At least you have it better than those who picked him up in NL-only formats.

As far as the rest of the season is concerned, it's hard to be terribly optimistic from a fantasy viewpoint. Morales will be hitting the majors without a rehab assignment, so there's likely to be some rust in the early going. And despite the Twins’ offense improvement with Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia looking healthy, it's still a below-average group that will lead to relatively weak counting stats. If Morales stays healthy enough to get 400 plate appearances the rest of the way, a .275 average with 10-12 homers and around 50-55 RBI seems realistic. In AL-only formats that he was not allowed to be drafted in, he's worth around a $30-35 bid. There's a pretty good chance that, despite the rumors, Morales is better than any crossover options later on, so bid accordingly. In mixed leagues, he's worth picking up in anything 12 teams or deeper, but don't expect him to be a difference maker. —Bret Sayre

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Recalled RHP Kirby Yates from Triple-A Durham; designated RHP Josh Lueke for assignment. [6/7]

Yates joined the Rays as a non-drafted free-agent—albeit one with big-league bloodlines—and worked his way through the system thanks to gaudy strikeout rates. While the Hawaiian's ceiling is not as high as those numbers suggest, he should have a big-league future. Yates fastball, which sits in the low-to-mid-90s and runs to the arm side, is enhanced by his short, deceptive arm action and low three-quarters release point. Once you factor in his best secondary offering, a slider, there's reason to believe he should be fierce against same-handed batters. For the time being, Yates will work in middle relief.

Lueke's dismissal was overdue. Even if you ignore his criminal history, his on-the-field performance has done little to win fans. The Rays fidgeted with just about everything they could during the past few seasons, from where he stood on the rubber to the tempo of his delivery, but nothing could offset his miserable command. In a vacuum, Lueke's stuff would be enough for another team to claim him off waivers. The question then is whether someone will overlook his past—not to mention the PR hit—in order to chase the upside. As we've seen time and again throughout the sport's history, the answer is probably yes.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Recalled RHP Mike Fiers from Triple-A Nashville; placed RHP Tyler Thornburg on the 15-day disabled list (sore elbow). [6/8]

You might remember Fiers from a few years ago, when he caused us to wonder how far deception could take a starter. Not far enough away from Miller Park for Milwaukee's liking, it turned out, as he yielded eight home runs last season in 22 big-league innings. Now Fiers is back, this time in the bullpen, with hopes that we'll need to ask the same question about a reliever. Josh Collmenter comparisons, so rampant back then, seem apt here. Collmenter, after all, proved last season that his funk can work in the bullpen, even over multiple-inning stints. While Collmenter has since returned to the rotation, Fiers is unlikely to get that opportunity—at least for the time being—but he'd settle for carving out a home in the bullpen.

NEW YORK METS
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Selected the contract of C-R Taylor Teagarden; optioned C-R Travis d'Arnaud to Triple-A Las Vegas. [6/7]

With no disrespect intended to Teagarden, d'Arnaud is the story here. The former top prospect had struggled his way through more than 250 plate appearances before the Mets decided enough was enough. Perhaps a few weeks in Las Vegas, where d'Arnaud can regain some confidence and tinker with his swing away from the big-league spotlight, will help. Still, there are few positives to this demotion. The hope is d'Arnaud becomes the latest catcher to blossom a little later than expected—see Mesoraco, Devin—but until he hits in the majors, we should be a little skeptical about his chances.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Selected the contract of RHP Ken Giles from Triple-A Lehigh Valley; placed RHP Mike Adams on the 15-day disabled list (rotator cuff inflammation). [6/7]

With Adams heading to the disabled list for the second time this season, the Phillies call upon arguably their top relief prospect. Here's what you need to know about Giles: he throws hard. The secondary pitches and control aren't always there—evidenced by 85 walks in 141 professional innings—but the man flirts with triple digits on command. How that nuance in his game develops will determine whether he's a late-inning monster or a middle-relief tease. For now, he's likely to get his feet wet in lukewarm situations.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

Related Content:  Minnesota Twins,  Kendrys Morales

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