TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays eased some of their roster challenges and created a spot on the 40-man by trading DH Kendrys Morales and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics for minor-league infielder Jesus Lopez and international bonus pool room.
The deal, on the eve of the 2019 season, is somewhat of a stunner given the game’s recent aversion to offence-only players. More impressive is that general manager Ross Atkins not only found a taker for the one-dimensional 35-year-old who posted a .760 OPS over his two seasons in Toronto and is widely respected as a top-flight teammate, but he also returned some assets.
That wouldn’t have been possible without the money to offset the $12 million Morales is due this season – more than $10 million, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Essentially, the Blue Jays bought Lopez, a 22-year-old from Nicaragua who posted a .695 OPS in 84 games at low-A Beloit last year, along with the pool room.
But in moving off Morales, they’ve found more at-bats to spread around their position player group while giving themselves a spot on the 40-man to add a non-roster reliever – Javy Guerra is the current favourite – for Thursday’s season-opener against Detroit.
They now have only 11 position players on the 25-man roster, but an industry source indicated outfielder Anthony Alford was on his way to join the club. That would allow the Blue Jays to give Teoscar Hernandez plenty of time at DH while fielding a strong defensive outfield with any combination of Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney and Alford.
The Blue Jays signed Morales to a $33-million, three-year contract as a free agent in November 2016, a divisive agreement that came a day or two after Edwin Encarnacion turned down a four-year contract that would have guaranteed him $80 million.
Morales never provided the type of offensive impact the team hoped for from him – totalling 0.9 WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference over his two seasons – but was deeply admired and beloved by his teammates. His influence on and care for the club’s young players, the Latinos especially, brought an unquantifiable value.
A sample of the feeling towards him:
Can’t agree with this more. He’s a legend. His guidance for the young ones is amazing. Always wanting to spread his knowledge and help. Love you KMo! https://t.co/bX0CxHSFk3
— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) March 28, 2019
The additional bonus pool room, on the heels of the $500,000 acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Dwight Smith Jr., allows the Blue Jays to make some additional adds in Latin America to bolster their prospect pool.
Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees the club’s international scouting, and vice-president, baseball operations Ben Cherington were recently in the Dominican Republic.