On the eve of Opening Day, the Blue Jays just traded away their highest-paid player. In a very unexpected move, the club announced the trade of Kendrys Morales to the Oakland A’s.
The Blue Jays receive 22-year old infield prospect Jesus Lopez from the Athletics. Lopez played 84 games in single-A with the Beloit Snappers, hitting .239/.293/.402 with 10 home runs and 42 RBI’s.
OFFICIAL: We've acquired Minor League INF Jesus Lopez and international signing bonus pool space from the @Athletics in exchange for DH/1B Kendrys Morales and cash considerations.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 28, 2019
The Jays also receive an undisclosed amount of international signing bonus pool money as part of this trade. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Blue Jays will pay down more than $10 million of the $12 million remaining on Morales’ contract.
After the departure of the 12-year veteran, the highest-paid player on the Blue Jays roster this season is Justin Smoak, who will make $8 million dollars. The club’s payroll sits around $118 million for the 2019 season.
The trade itself isn’t unexpected, but the timing of it could not be more unorthodox. Baseball trades almost never happen the night before Opening Day.
Yet, after the A’s lost their first baseman Matt Olson to injury for 4-6 weeks, they were apparently willing to take a shot on Morales. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, Morales will see some playing time at first base this year.
Kendrys Morales is expected to play first base for Oakland as Matt Olson recovers from a broken hamate bone. Could wind up being a platoon situation, with Morales in against right-handed pitchers and Mark Canha — who killed left-handers last year — taking first vs. southpaws.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 28, 2019
If you’re a Blue Jays fan, you’re elated by this trade for a number of reasons. Morales was a nice hitter, but at $12 million for a pure DH, he was a big overpay. Not to mention, his baserunning wasn’t the best (he was the second-slowest DH according to Baseball Savant’s Sprint Speed Leaderboard).
The biggest benefactor of this trade is every other player on the Blue Jays’ 25-man roster. Very few American League teams still employ a strictly all-hit DH anymore. Today, most clubs use the designated hitter spot in the lineup to rotate players into the lineup, while getting position players off their feet.
With Morales no longer in the lineup, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo can use the DH spot to utilize hitters like Teoscar Hernandez much more effectively. This move may also open up an opportunity for someone like Rowdy Tellez.
The return on this trade is somewhat irrelevant; the spot in the lineup is what the Blue Jays truly covet here. Morales was a fine designated hitter for two seasons in Toronto, but the Blue Jays needed more from that position than just home runs.
By trading away Morales, the Blue Jays get a little more versatility in their lineup … which is worth its weight in gold in baseball’s modern era.