On Friday, news broke that the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales for three years and $33 million. Morales is clearly a quality hitter, but he can’t really do anything else, so Dave thought it was a bit of an overpay. Okay! Keep that in mind.
On Saturday, the Mariners traded for Danny Valencia. Kendrys Morales is 33. Danny Valencia is 32. Valencia is projected for a salary of $5.3 million in his last year of arbitration. This past year, Valencia was a better hitter than Morales was. Over the past two years, Valencia has been the better hitter. Over the past three years, Valencia has been the better hitter. Over the past four years, Valencia has been the better hitter. The evidence would suggest that Valencia is at least as good as Morales at the plate, and Valencia isn’t limited to being a DH. He’s also a slightly better runner. It would seem to make him the better player, even though he’s going to cost so much less.
From the Blue Jays’ perspective, there’s some value in having Morales locked in for a while. They have a DH for the foreseeable future. And there’s another aspect to this — Valencia, in the past, has been somewhat polarizing. It’s not that all of his teammates have hated him, but some of his teammates have hated him, and Morales is an easier fit into a clubhouse. It’s not a coincidence that Valencia is so well-traveled. But the Mariners are betting on production, figuring that any other issues can be dealt with later, and as a part of betting on production, they’re betting on Valencia’s recent transformation. It used to be, Valencia was a platoon guy, who brutalized southpaws. A couple years ago, it looks like he figured things out.
|vs. RHP||PA||wRC+||vs. LHP||PA||wRC+|
|2010 – 2014||993||65||2010 – 2014||552||138|
|2015 – 2016||602||118||2015 – 2016||293||141|
Valencia has looked like an everyday player, and he’s going to be treated like an everyday player. Over the past two seasons, he’s been as good a hitter as Buster Posey, Kyle Seager, and Christian Yelich. The drawbacks are that Valencia won’t be a defensive plus at first base or in the corner outfield, but he certainly fits a hole on the roster, and his 2017 will be affordable.
It hasn’t been hard to see that the A’s were going to move Valencia somewhere. Because of his surplus value, he wasn’t acquired for free. For giving up Valencia, the A’s are receiving Paul Blackburn, a 22-year-old righty who’s not regarded as a top prospect. What Blackburn doesn’t do is miss a ton of bats. What he does do is keep the ball on the ground, and he’s kept his walk rates low. He feels a lot like another Kendall Graveman, a guy who could become an established major leaguer in a hurry. Graveman made just 11 combined starts between Double-A and Triple-A. Blackburn just spent a whole season in Double-A, but he gave up just eight homers. He could be depth as soon as next season, and the A’s are no strangers to needing extra starting pitching. Blackburn could help them in the future more than Valencia ever would.
So it’s a neat little exchange. Depending on how you interpret Valencia’s clubhouse concerns, he might be a genuinely underrated player. Blackburn, also, might be differently underrated, but the Mariners don’t have a lot of shiny prospects to sell. The Blue Jays, I’m sure, are happy to have Morales. Maybe they very much didn’t want Valencia back. It’s enough to make you wonder, though.