Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adios, Kendrys. We hardly knew ya.

The Twins got the ball rolling today, trading Kendrys Morales, one of the three guys I said absolutely must be traded at this deadline, to the Seattle Mariners for middle reliever Stephen Pryor.

Morales was a bit of a weird signing by the Twins, grabbing him mid-season after his "you have to give up your #1 pick if you sign him status" had expired for $7 million.  It didn't make a ton of sense to me because the Twins don't really throw around that kind of money, they already had a glut of slow DH/1B/corner OF types, and signing someone like Morales seemed like the kind of move a team on the verge of the playoffs would make, which the Twins clearly weren't.  Then again, at the time I said it makes sense to see if he can move the needle on your offense at all, and if not hope you can flip him at the deadline, so all-in-all a good signing.

Naturally Morales didn't really cooperate.  After a hot start he's now hitting .234/.259/.325, by the far the worst season of his career (you probably don't remember this, but back in 2009 he finished 5th in AL MVP voting).  He's never OPSed below .785 in a full season, yet is at .584 this year with just one home run in 162 plate appearances.  He's basically been a disaster at the plate, walking at about half his career rate while popping up twice as often, and combined with poor defense he's actually played at a level below replacement level this year.  Obviously this kind of performance torpedoed his value in the trade market, but the Twins were at least able to get back a young, capable reliever who is somewhat proven and under their control through 2018.

Seattle drafted Pryor as a reliever in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, and although he was never at the top of any of their prospect ratings on the lists I saw he usually fell somewhere in the teens.  He was a definite strikeout pitcher in the low minors, appearing in the closer role and putting up K/9 numbers in the 14s and 15s.  Those numbers dipped as his competition level increased, but remained respectably around 10, however his walks went up to a concerning level.  In 2013 he got hit with a couple of injuries and ended up only throwing 11 innings between the majors and minors, and has spent most of this season at AAA, with a little bit of time in AA and one appearance of 1.2 innings in the majors (against the Twins).

In 31 innings at Tacoma (AAA) he struck out 27 and walked 18, a horrible ratio, which helped lead to a 1.42 WHIP and 4.65 ERA.  Really though that's not the point because he's clearly a different pitcher since the injuries.  His fastball in 2012 averaged 96.3 mph.  His fastball this year, his first back from the injury, averaged just 91.7 mph.  That is a major, major drop.  I realize his 1.2 innings in the majors this year is a teeny tiny sample size, but he did throw 23 fastballs so it's not completely insignificant either, and the reduction in strikeouts in the minors, just 7.8 per nine this year, backs it up.

So the Twins traded Morales for a bit of a gamble, a bit of a reclamation project, but one with significant upside.  If he returns to his pre-injury form he has closer potential, perhaps even as Glen Perkins replacement when he gets too expensive.  If he never recovers, all you've lost is a couple months of a player who you weren't going to re-sign anyway, and who wasn't that good this season any way.  Would have been nice if Morales would have actually, you know, hit this year and the Twins could have nabbed a mid-level type of prospect at least, but this is a worthwhile gamble, for sure.  Now let's hurry up and trade Josh Willingham to the Royals for Christian Binford, Kurt Suzuki to the Orioles for Mike Wright and Drew Dosch, and Jared Burton to the Blue Jays for L.B. Dantzler.

It's going to be awesome if any of those trades actually happen.

FUN FACT:  Remember in 2012 when Seattle pitched that weird no-hitter with six pitchers being involved?  Kevin Millwood started and pitched 6 no hit innings, but then hurt his groin and couldn't continue so six relievers came on and closed out with a combined 3 more no hit innings.  Those relievers were Charlie Furbush (tee hee), Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, and............Stephen Pryor.  Yep, our Stephen Pryor.  He pitched two thirds of inning, walking two guys before getting a strikeout to close out the seventh.

And he got the win.

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