With the first-year player draft commenced, the last remaining big-name free agent is now free of his draft pick compensation. Teams no longer have to give up their highest non-protected pick to sign designated hitter and first baseman Kendrys Morales. Yesterday afternoon, we heard that Morales will finally decide on offers, and he doesn’t plan on taking his time.
Of course, the Yankees asked Morales to wait just a few more days. Unsure with the state of their own lineup, the Yankees are still interested in Morales’ bat, however they’d like to see how Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira respond to playing after dealing with elbow and wrist issues. Assuming one of these players needs further surgery or time on the disabled list, the Yankees would become the obvious favorite to land the switch-hitting Morales.
But if Teixeira and Beltran miraculously remain healthy for the rest of the season, it’ll be difficult to plug Morales into a regular position. Beltran figures to be the designated hitter for the majority of the remaining season, and placing him in right field would block Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki‘s bats and gloves. At first base, Teixeira is clearly the better player over Morales, and the only time Morales could play is if the Yankees plan to limit Teixeira’s starts due to his wrist. There’s also no real platoon advantage, since all three of Teixeira, Beltran, and Morales are switch-hitters.
There are a few ways to fit Morales’ bat into the lineup if the Yankees are willing to get creative. Against right-handed starters, the team could bench Soriano and put Beltran in right field with Morales and Teixeira each taking one of the designated hitter and first base spots. When it comes to left-handed starters, the Yankees could rest one Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury while putting Soriano and Beltran in the corner outfield spots. In both scenarios, you’re asking Beltran to play right field, where he’s looked like a detriment defensively. For the Yankees, who are desperate for offense, it might be necessary to take that downgrade defensively and receive better platoon opportunities, better injury insurance, and a deeper bench to rest the aging players.
Even with the designated hitter and first base spot seemingly blocked on the roster, the Yankees can find ways to play Morales regularly. This is an aging and injury-prone roster that needs to be constantly circulated to allow for rest. Signing Morales is more than a backup plan to Beltran and Teixeira, but also a depth addition that’ll let Girardi rest some of the overworked veterans. Morales does make sense for the Yankees, but the bigger question for ownership is likely on his contract demands.