The Blue Jays' first big move of the offseason became official on Friday afternoon when the club announced Kendrys Morales' three-year deal worth $33 million.
Morales is expected to become Toronto's primary designated hitter, but general manager Ross Atkins did raise the possibility of occasional playing time at first base or in the outfield. Morales is coming off a year in which he hit 30 home runs with 93 RBIs in 154 games for the Royals.
The 33-year-old is a switch-hitter who can provide a little more balance to the middle of the order on a team that is predominantly filled with right-handed batters. Atkins said Morales was someone the Blue Jays considered for quite a while, and they felt the price was right to make a quick strike.
"As we considered all of our alternatives, he has been a guy that is very well-respected," Atkins said during a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters. "He's obviously been very productive in his career and a guy that many of us here have long talked about as a good fit. The offensive consistency, the power, the fact that he has been in big ballparks and still been very productive."
Morales is a .273/.331/.465 career hitter in 10 seasons with the Angels, Mariners, Twins and Royals. One underrated aspect of Morales, as Atkins touched on, is that he has spent most of his career in pitcher-friendly ballparks.
The advantage at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City goes to the pitcher, and the same could be said about Safeco Field in Seattle and Target Field in Minnesota. Toronto's hope is that a move to Rogers Centre could increase Morales' production, or at the very least help maintain it, as he moves into his mid-30s.
A counter to that point is that Morales' OPS on the road (.795) this season was almost identical to his OPS at home (.794). But add in more games in other hitter-friendly American League East ballparks and the belief is more understandable.
"We feel like there's some upside to him coming to the AL East, playing in some smaller ballparks and then being at home here," Atkins said. "It wasn't a driving factor, but it did give us some confidence that there would be upside to the bat. The fact that he performed so well in bigger ballparks like Seattle and Kansas City."
Morales has proven to be pretty durable over the last several years. Dating back to 2012, he has appeared in at least 134 games in every season except 2014, when he missed the start of the season while waiting for an acceptable contract through free agency. Almost all of that time has come at DH, and he hasn't played more than 31 games at first since 2009.
"Some of our current team knew him, and it continued to be positive what we heard about him and learned about him as a person," Atkins said. "We're really excited for what he's going to mean to our culture."