The Royals need to bring back 33-year-old designated hitter Kendrys Morales in 2017. His .261/.328/.468 slash line with 28 home runs and 85 RBIs will be hard to replace.
It’s as simple as that. Yes, the Kansas City Royals front office would like to turn the designated hitter spot into a rotating position. That option would allow them to rest catcher Salvador Perez more often without losing his bat from the lineup. Further, with young players like Cheslor Cuthbert and Hunter Dozier ready for major-league jobs, KC seems to have the depth to do without a full time DH.
Not so fast.
The biggest problem here is that none of these players hit from the left side of the plate. Right now, the only three lefties in the lineup are Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and switch hitter Kendrys Morales. Jarrod Dyson hits from the left side, but he isn’t a guy you want holding down a starting position.
Yes, the KC Royals will get lefty hitting third baseman Mike Moustakas back for 2017. But, then you’d still only have three left-handed bats in the lineup without Morales. With Morales, the offense would once again have the superb balance that gave Kansas City a lineup without a hole in the 2015 playoffs.
The Kansas City Royals need that kind of production from the offense. They can’t afford to repeat their current no. 14 ranking in AL runs scored if they want to make a run at their third World Championship.
Morales is likely to be the cheapest left-handed power bat that they will find on the free-agent market. He is also likely to want to stay in Kansas City given that he’s enjoyed a nice two-year run with the Royals. His .275/.345/.473 slash line with 50 home runs and 191 RBIs has been outstanding.
Who else are they going to find on the free-agent market that’s a better fit? A broken down Ryan Howard? A soon-to-be 40-year-old Carlos Beltran? Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion will likely be out of reach.
The big question to my mind is HOW you bring back Kendrys Morales. Kansas City holds an $11 million mutual option for 2017, but I highly doubt Morales will pick up his end of that deal. His last two seasons have earned him a better payday.
The problem is, a one-year $16.7 million qualifying offer might be an overpay for 2017. The front office will have to balance that risk against another two-year deal for a player that will be 34 and 35 over his next two seasons.
Kendrys Morales has been rather terrific for all but two terrible months to begin the 2016 season. I think the KC Royals best chance to make a run at the 2017 title will be to keep Kendrys Morales in the fold.