When I have a family, and authority to make such decisions, I want to celebrate Christmas on December 26—or at least the gift-giving portion of it. Have you ever gone to Best Buy the day after Christmas and seen a present you purchased for your brother 48 hours before being marked 40% off? It’s the sort of illogical occurrence that could only be considered normal in American society—we’ve got this free market thing down pat, and timing is just as important to an asset’s value as supply and demand and the quality of the good.
Minnesota went after-Christmas shopping on Saturday afternoon, signing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a one-year, $7.6 million deal. Adding Morales prior to Thursday—when Round 1 of the amateur draft was conducted—would have cost the signing club a first-round pick (in Minnesota’s case, a No. 2). Beginning Friday? It cost only paper, and a reasonable amount, at that.
As of Saturday night, the Twins hadn’t announced the deal, because they’d like Morales to undergo a physical first. The veteran reportedly won’t be asked to go on a minor league assignment to get his timing back before joining the big league roster. Morales is expected to suit up for the Twins early this week, perhaps even Monday or Tuesday.
He’s a must-add in all mixed leagues, though I would wait to start him until next week in weekly formats, due to the uncertainty of his debut date, and also the expectation that it’ll take him at least a few games to get acclimated (and perhaps a few weeks).
That Morales picked Minnesota after months of deliberation surprised the industry, and initially, the fit appeared awkward: Do the Twins really believe they are contenders? Does Morales really believe that Target Field’s cavernous dimensions are the best location to rebuild his 2015 free agent stock? Could Scott Boras really locate Minnesota on a map?
The Twins, not once mentioned throughout the late spring as a potential Morales destination, provide a surprisingly soft landing spot for the switch-hitter upon closer examination. Minnesota, only 2.5 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot, certainly needs more thunder in the lineup, and Morales is a nice fit (though ZIPS gives them only a 5-percent chance to make the playoffs even after the addition).
Minnesota has been getting runners on base all year—ranking 12th in MLB in OBP and fifth in walks—but the team is 15th in runs scored due to the 20th ranked slugging percentage. The Twins rank 21st in the bigs in both batting average and home runs, and those are two categories in which Morales thrives. His fantasy prognosis would have been a bit better in the Rangers or Yankees’ parks, but Morales has spent his entire career hitting in pitcher’s environments and has posted a .280/.333/.480 slash line in 2,222 at-bats between the Angels and Mariners. Target Field saps left-handed power, so it’ll be interesting to see if Morales can continue to assault right-handed pitching to the .286/.340/.499 degree at which he’s done so over the last seven years in the pros.
Morales, who can’t be offered arbitration again next winter by the Twins, will probably take Jason Kubel’s roster spot, and ZIPS calls for him to slash .274/.327/.446 with 13 homers and 50 RBI the rest of the way. Josmil Pinto, in line to lose DH at-bats, joins Kubel as a fantasy loser in this transaction, while Nos. 1-3 hitters Danny Santana, Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer should all be in line to score a few more runs. With corner outfielders Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia healthy and producing, the Twins now have a surprisingly frisky offense.
- My heart flutters when I’m scrolling through Rotoworld’s baseball news on my iPhone and I see a trade, a waiver claim, a promotion, or even a designated-for-assignment. I don’t care. I have no shame. I’m a sap for transactions.
For a person like me who has an irrational relationship with the business of baseball, Round 1 of the amateur draft is one of the most underrated nights of the year. I skipped the Twins game to watch it Thursday night, which I suppose would make zero sense to a “real” baseball fan. But I will see these players promoted, recalled, purchased onto the 40-man roster, traded, signed, optioned, released, and designated for assignment over the next 20 years (or three; whatever), and I like to begin my brain’s Rolodex with the day they were drafted (the guys drafted in the first few rounds, anyway; I’m not sick enough to watch beyond Round 2, though I can neither confirm nor deny that I read scouting reports of the players Minnesota drafted between Rds. 3-10 while taking in Edge of Tomorrow on Friday afternoon and Rds. 11-50—they ran out after like Rd. 12!—while taking in X-Men the next day). It was a lousy weather weekend in northern Minnesota, what can I tell you?
Nobody selected on Thursday will have fantasy relevance in 2014, but No. 3 pick Carlos Rodon probably holds the most value over the next 3-4 years. Selected by the White Sox, the North Carolina State ace could team with Chris Sale to form a dominant top-of-the-rotation lefty duo by as early as this time next year. On the offensive side, Mets’ slugger Michael Conforto, the No. 10 pick, could be manning an outfield corner in Queens as soon as next summer.
High school phenoms LHP Brady Aiken (No. 1, Astros), RHP Tyler Kolek (No. 2, Marlins), SS Nick Gordon (No. 5, Twins) and C/OF Alex Jackson (No. 6, Mariners) are all a few years away, so we’ll shelve discussion of them for now.
Four fantasy candidates for next year: Twins’ second-rounder Nick Burdi has as good a chance as anyone in this class to reach the majors first. Louisville’s closer has hit 103 on the gun and could be No. 2 in line for saves behind Glen Perkins next spring. Aaron Nola, Philadelphia’s selection at No. 7, made collegiate hitters look silly this spring (11-1 with a 1.47 ERA at LSU) and should make his Phillies’ debut next summer. Catchers Max Pentecost (No. 11, Blue Jays) and Kyle Schwarber (No. 4, Cubs) should both move quickly thanks to thunderous bats. Schwarber will be a fantasy stud if he can stay behind the plate, but some scouts believe he’ll be forced to man a corner outfield spot in Wrigley thanks to below average receiving skills and the presence of Anthony Rizzo.
We’ve spent more than 1,000 words discussing nothing that happened on the field, so let’s check in on what happened on the diamond in the Week that Was speed round...
- The Astros promoted the best 1B prospect in the game, Jon Singleton, on Tuesday. He hasn’t hit much yet, but the same was said about George Springer until three weeks in. Singleton is a must-own in 12-team mixed leagues, though you might have to exercise patience over the next few weeks. And on the subject of prospects: Pittsburgh OF Gregory Polanco and Miami SP Andrew Heaney could be promoted at any time. Both should be owned in mixed leagues.
- After a dud performance against Toronto on Thursday, Justin Verlander has a 5.67 ERA over his last seven starts. I wouldn’t sell low on him, and I wouldn’t try to buy him either. Just one of those things.
- Mat Latos left what was supposed to be his final rehab start prematurely on Wednesday with a calf cramp. Unfortunate news for an elite pitcher limping through an infuriating season. February meniscus surgery to his left knee was only supposed to rob Latos of two or three 2014 starts, but a right forearm strain shoved back his timetable. Latos will make another rehab start and join Cincy’s rotation perhaps next weekend.
- The Pirates canceled Gerrit Cole’s Monday start against the Cubs and placed the stud right-hander on the disabled list on Sunday. Judging by his sluggishness in recent starts, a few weeks off sounds like a good idea. Pittsburgh promoted Jeff Locke to start on Sunday, and pushed Charlie Morton back one day. Locke should be owned in NL-only formats until Cole comes back.
- Yasiel Puig left Saturday’s game with his flexor pain inflicted by a fourth inning slide against the Rockies. The Dodgers have declared him day-to-day.