Analyst: Morales should be M’s top free-agent priority

Aug 10, 2013, 3:08 PM | Updated: Aug 12, 2013, 2:16 pm

By Brent Stecker

Kendrys Morales has provided the Mariners with something they’ve lacked for several years – a veteran run-producing presence in the middle of the lineup. The designated hitter/first baseman entered this weekend’s series against Milwaukee hitting .300/.353/.485 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs, and the trade that brought him to Seattle from the Angels for starting pitcher Jason Vargas is looking better and better by the day.

morales run
If the Mariners re-sign Kendrys Morales after the season, it could help lure other big free agents to sign with the team as it continues to build to the future. (AP)

Morales is a free agent at the end of the season, however, a matter made even more worrisome considering his agent is Scott Boras, who is known as one of the most shrewd in his line of work and someone who usually has his clients test the waters of free agency. But the Mariners will still get the first chance to sign Morales, and as Prospect Insider’s Jason Churchill said on “Seattle Sports at Night” last week, that should be general manager Jack Zduriencik’s No. 1 priority this offseason.

“(Morales) should (be the Mariners’ top priority) because they’re going to have the opportunity to get something done before anybody else can do anything about it,” Churchill said. “They’re going to have time at the end of the season to talk with Kendrys Morales and his agent, Scott Boras, and say, ‘Hey, I know you guys like to work the market. Tell us what you think that market is going to be and we’ll see if we can come as close to it as possible and see if that’s enough.'”

Churchill explained that inking Morales early on in the offseason would go a long ways for the Mariners.

“The advantage to getting a deal done with Kendrys Morales early (is the Mariners would) head to the winter meetings with Morales in their pocket, and it’s gonna be that much easier to perhaps go out and be competitive in the free-agent market,” he said. “Not just because they’re gonna have money, but because they’re gonna be able to convince some of those other players, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re not a joke anymore. We finished in the top half of the league in runs scored,’ which is where they sit right now, ‘and we have Kendrys Morales signed long-term, we have these young players performing well, we were a near-.500 club.'”

Those are all things that have eluded the Mariners in recent offseasons to entice free agents.

“I think the biggest thing getting free agents to come here was the ballpark and the money,” Churchill said. “Winning and having other guys that can help them win, I think they’ve answered some of those questions, and if they’re able to get a deal done with a guy like Morales, that’s the reason I think he has to be their No. 1 target – not because he’s the best option, but because he’s the most likely option to get him to come here.”

Just how likely he is to re-sign with the Mariners is hard to discern, however; the word is that Morales likes playing in Seattle, but that isn’t always enough for a Boras client.

“He’s been here, he knows what it’s like here, the buzz is that he does like it here and will consider returning here,” Churchill said. “You’re probably gonna have to overpay him, but he absolutely should be their No. 1 target.”

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Analyst: Morales should be M’s top free-agent priority