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Trade Values: Kendrys Morales

Yesterday I looked at the trade values for Alex Rios and Nate Schierholtz, a pair of right fielders who the Pittsburgh Pirates have been looking at recently. Right field is a hole in the offense, but it isn’t the only hole. The Pirates have also seen their struggles at first base. The platoon between Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez looked great at the start of the year, but Jones has struggled recently against right-handed pitchers, leading to some poor overall production from the position. So it makes sense that Jayson Stark reported the Pirates have been connected to Kendrys Morales.

Apparently Stark said this on the air, so I didn’t hear the actual context. I’m not sure if “a possibility” means “Morales is available, thus he could be possible for any team” or if it means “the Pirates have been looking at Morales”. Stark does say that the Pirates would love a middle of the order bat.

Again, I’m not sure that Stark’s comments mean the Pirates are looking at Morales. But he seems to be available and he’s connected to the Pirates, so let’s take a look at his trade value.

NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players.  The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) – Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects.

Kendrys Morales Trade Value

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus Value
2013 $5,250,000 3.0 $15,200,000 $3,300,000

Finding the Value: Morales is making $5.25 M this year, and is a free agent after the season. He was a 3.0 WAR player in 2009, then missed half of 2010 and all of 2011 with a broken leg which he suffered after being mobbed by his teammates after a walkoff homer. Chalk that up to 3.0 WAR Player Problems. Last year he had a 1.7 WAR and this year he is at 1.2. I put him at a 3.0 WAR, although that might be a little high. It might be fair to say he’s closer to 2.0 or 2.5. The trade surplus value is from July 31st to the end of the year.

What He’s Worth: Even as a 3.0 WAR player, Morales wouldn’t be worth a lot since he’s just a rental. He would be worth less as a 2.0 or 2.5 WAR guy, but the price is low no matter what. At his current value, Morales would be worth two Grade C pitchers, with one of those guys being a young pitcher of 22 years or younger.

Analysis: Morales is hitting for a .280/.337/.463 line in 350 at-bats. He doesn’t really have any platoon splits, since he’s a switch hitter. He actually has done a better job this year of hitting left-handers. The Pirates were getting good production from the first base position earlier in the year, but Garrett Jones has been struggling, which is leading to a .242/.318/.412 line in 501 plate appearances at the position. Adding Morales would upgrade first base, and would potentially lead to two other upgrades.

The first upgrade would be that you could use Gaby Sanchez at third base to platoon with Pedro Alvarez against left-handers. Alvarez has been crushing right-handers this year, but is still struggling against lefties with a .657 OPS. By comparison, Sanchez has a .961 OPS against left-handers.

The other upgrade would be that you could either move Jones to right-field or the bench. In right-field he could potentially provide more power than Jose Tabata or Travis Snider, although there’s still the concern that he’s struggling against right-handers. Plus you’d still need to find someone to hit left-handers. If you move him to the bench you add a legit power bat off the bench. We talked about that in last week’s podcast, noting that the Pirates haven’t had a good power threat off the bench in recent years.

The price for Morales wouldn’t be as high as other players, since he’s only a two month rental. Unlike other rentals, Seattle probably wouldn’t have a shot at getting a compensation pick for Morales, so the Pirates wouldn’t be competing against a future first round pick if Seattle held him. With the state of the farm system, the Pirates wouldn’t miss the pitching prospects they’d have to give up for Morales, since it shouldn’t cost anyone in the top 15.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

    Thanks for doing this.

  • jon6er

    But have you seen him play defense? Slow with no range so I’m not big on him and the fact he has played first 26 times this year. Jones/Sanchez play better defense and their combined numbers aren’t horrible compared to Kendrys.

  • moose7195

    I’ve been warming up to the idea of getting a 1B at the deadline. An everyday 1B moves the platoon to bench, which isn’t the worst idea if Sanchez can play third and Jones ability to play right field. The bench gets significant help and Hurdle gets some versatility with a couple of bench guys that can hit vs lefties and righties.

  • Monkshot

    When I first saw Morales as being a possibility I scoffed at the idea, but the more I think about it, I think it’s a good move regardless if he would struggle defensively. The guy can be a clutch hitter, and that’s what this team needs. Don’t forget even though they have moved the fences in, Seattle is still a tough place to hit for power.

  • lost_zero

    Morales isn’t a bad option, assuming he’s healthy finally. I like that it would have a cascading effect on improving the bench.

    The rental player that I’m most interested is Hunter Pence. He’s an interesting case as far as what you would use for his WAR number, but he may not cost as much as people think when you factor in his projected WAR and remaining salary.

    He would help against LHPs and also provide that cascading effect of improved bench options.

  • smurph

    I would be for this trade, if indeed Hurdle would consider using Sanchez at third occassionally. I don’t know that he would. Anything that gets Inge off this team is an improvement in my opinion.

  • wkkortas

    Actually, Morales does have a little bit of a platoon split–his career OPS is 846 against righties cf. 737 against left-handers, with much better power against righties. I think a 3.0 WAR value is a litle optimistic for him. Really, I don’t think the marginal gain in offense you get from Morales against righties offsets what you lose by putting Jones in right field.

    • Brian

      The gain would be Morales over the bench player he replaces. Not Morales over Jones. Having Morales, Jones/Sanchez, or Tabata on the bench at the end of the game sounds a lot better to me than the Pirates current situation.

      • Dean Manifest

        The added value is two-pronged when you make a trade like this: theoretically you might replace a 1.5 win everyday player with a 3.0 win everyday player, which in turn replaces what might be a replacement-level bench bat with that 1.5 win player (although that player is obviously no longer worth as much if he loses his everyday status). If this 1.5 win player gets the majority of his value from offense (ie he sucks at D) all the better.

  • Thom Kay

    Sanchez at 3rd?? I’d have a hard time getting behind that. He’s never played there in the majors, and he’s been bad in the minors.

    • Tim Williams

      He played there in Spring Training.

      • joe g.

        Not exactly reassuring.

  • Cecil.

    “Cascading effect” I like that phrase.
    Morales would be an improvement at first, Sanchez getting some at bats against tough lefties at third should get you some improvement there, Jones protects you in right if Tabata regresses, and it puts a stronger bat on the bench. One addition and you’re making yourself stronger in four places. That’s the kind of change you want.
    I’m all for getting Morales, depending on the cost of course. I’d definitely rather trade what it would cost for Morales than what it would cost for Garza.

  • buccofever

    Enough with the platooning Alvarez talk. Not gonna happen, nor should it.

  • jaygray007

    get it done, Neal!

    Sounds like it’d cost just a bit more than the old Derrick Lee trade. pushing both jones and sanchez actually gives the pirates a pretty formidable bench with good weapons against both right and left handed pitching.

    even if Alex Rios is acquired, Morales should be explored as well. Go get that division title.

  • Vicente Barletta

    I don´t care for Morales but the solution for this and the next 3 years at first base is right there in Seattle: Justin Smoak.
    Look at his numers, the guy is figuring out MLB pitching, his OBP is going up, so is his power. I wish the Pirates had traded for him in the offseason like it was reported.

  • Matt Beam

    Thanks for doing this! I’ve been pushing Morales for awhile now (and I know most sabermetric folks will disagree) but it’s at least partially to do with his great history of above average performance with RISP, which is something this team really lacks across the board.

    Another problem with the current 1B platoon is when it comes to PH, usually with Jones starting and then being removed because of a LH RP and replaced with Sanchez as a PH, who in turn is greatly neutralized when a RH RP is brought in to face him – thus further limiting our chances of late inning success by the 1B position. Morales being a competent hitter from both sides of the plate effectively means we have another position of strength in the lineup late in games.

  • http://ie buccobil

    Free Giancarlo and don’t worry about first base! Gabby & G.I. would do just fine in the 7 hole.

  • jg941

    So, Tim (or anyone)……who are the Grade C pitching prospects these days?

    Current examples?

    • Matt Beam

      I’ve seen him mention McPherson and Holmes, so I would assume it might also mean guys, like Stolmy, Black, Irwin or Cumpton, who are at AA/AAA but profile as back of the rotation types (think Rudy Owens last year) or relievers, as well as young projectable guys in A ball (think Colton Cain last year) – beyond Holmes I’m not sure there is much in that group that’s desireable as guys like Sampson haven’t really performed so far and guys like Glasnow, Kingham, and Heredia are beyond C level prospects

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