Kendrys Morales has become a scapegoat for what some consider to be a failed Blue Jay offseason. Toronto, perhaps jumping the gun, signed the 33-year-old designated hitter to a $33M, three year deal, turning their backs on franchise favourite Edwin Encarnacion. Of course, as no one could have predicted, Encarnacion’s market failed, and he ended up signing with the Cleveland Indians at a discount price - just less than twice the size of Morales’s contract.
The Washington Nationals inked 33-year-old former Blue Jay Adam Lind to a $1.5M, one year contract on Tuesday, concluding an offseason that, likewise, saw his market collapse. With a mutual option for the 2018 season and a $500,000 buyout, the deal seems like a steal compared to that of Morales. Despite the fear of beating the subject to death, did the Blue Jays make a mistake in signing Morales so early in the offseason, given Lind’s discount deal with the Nationals?
First, let’s consider the simplest of topics - age and health. Morales, per Baseball Reference, is 33-years-old and was born on June 20th, 1983. Lind, like wise, is 33-years-old, born on July 17th, 1983. Born just less than a month apart from each other, age is, essentially, a non-factor.
In 2010, celebrating a walk-off grand slam, Morales injured his lower left leg, causing him to miss most of the season and all of 2011. Since then, Morales has played in at least 134 games in every season with the exception of 2014, when he remained on the free agent market until June 8th, playing in just 98 games.
Lind, in 2011, spent time on the 15-day disabled list with lower back stiffness, but remained healthy (albeit not exclusively good) until 2014, when he broke his foot. He played in only 96 games, and played in 149 and 126 games in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Overall, while Lind is slightly more injury prone than Morales, both have a similar track record.
Defensively, Lind is far more valuable. In 2016, he played 101 games at first base, with 16 as the Seattle Mariners’ designated hitter. On the field, he had a .994 fielding percentage, but collected a -0.9 defensive WAR. Although clearly not the best fielder to take the position, Morales ranks far worse. He spent 138 games as a designated hitter in 2016, playing just 12 games on the field. Although he didn’t make an error in 57 chances, the fact that he rarely fields makes him almost inherently worth less than Lind defensively.
Offensively, Morales appear to be the better choice. In 618 plate appearances, he collected a .327 OBP, compared to Lind’s .286 OBP in 430 plate appearances. Morales out hit Lind in home runs (30 to 20), albeit in more at bats. Lind's BABIP of .259 also ranks worse than Morales, who recorded a .283 BABIP in 2016.
Another feature in Morales's favor is that he can hit from both the left and right side of the plate. Although Lind, as a left-handed hitter, would be welcome in Toronto's right-handed-heavy lineup, the ability to choose which side of the plate Morales hits from is a convenient, especially in late inning pitcher match ups. Morales collected a .307 OBP against right handed pitchers and .369 OBP against left handed pitchers in 2016, compared to Lind’s .287 against RHP and .278 against LHP.
Despite some of Morales’s clear advantages, like better offensive numbers and more flexible plate discipline, it’s hard to compare a one year, $1.5M deal to a three year, $33M deal with numbers so similar. Even if it isn’t fully quantifiable, Lind’s deal with the Nationals was likely far more reasonable and valuable - less time, less money, better defense - even with worse offense.