The Mariners made a trade Thursday, but not the blockbuster involving David Price and Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays they have widely been urged to make. Instead, the Mariners dipped into 2013 by acquiring former Seattle first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for right-handed relief pitcher Stephen Pryor.
Seattle sent Pryor, practically a permanent resident of the disabled list for the past three years, to Minnesota for a rent-a-switch-hitter batting .234 with one home run, 18 RBIs and a .584 OPS in his last 39 games.
The 31-year-old Morales, expected to hit behind Robinson Cano where Corey Hart couldn’t, is scheduled to join the Mariners for Friday night’s second game of a four-game series with AL East-leading Baltimore at Safeco Field.
In 156 games last season, Morales led the team in batting average (.277), hits (167), doubles (34), RBIs (80), multi-hit games (46) and extra-base hits (57). His 23 home runs established a club record for a switch hitter. In 79 games at Safeco Field, he hit .282 (85×301) with 21 doubles, 12 home runs and 41 RBIs.
The Mariners attempted to re-sign Morales last offseason with an offer of nearly $30 million over three years, but Morales balked. He received no other offers of note, thanks largely to the draft-choice compensation required, until after the June free agent draft, when he accepted the Twins’ offer of $7.4 million (pro-rated from $12 million) for the balance of this season.
As recently as July 6, Morales was hitting .216 with a slugging percentage of .294. But he had a big series at Safeco Field July 9-10, when he drove in five runs in 8-1 and 4-2 victories over Seattle. Those efforts, booed lustily by fans, got Morales going. He hit in 12 consecutive games before going 0-for-4 in Minnesota’s 3-1 victory over Cleveland Wednesday.
Morales will try to breathe life into an offense that has dropped consecutive series to the Angels and Mets and entered Thursday night’s series opener against Baltimore ranked 13th in the AL in runs (396), 14th in batting (.245), 15th in on-base percentage (.299), 15th in slugging (.373) and 15th in OPS (.673).
Despite those dismal numbers, the Mariners held a half-game lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays for the AL’s second wild card spot, a major impetus for trading for Morales.
A Cuban native, Morales is a career .277 hitter with 141 doubles, 103 home runs and 363 RBIs in 659 games with the Angels (2006-2012), Mariners (2013) and Twins (2014).
Pryor, 25, made one appearance for the Mariners this season after opening the season on the disabled list (surgery to repair right latissimus dorsi muscle). He appeared in 34 games with the Mariners from 2012-2014, recording a 2.81 ERA (10 ER, 32.0 IP) with 35 strikeouts (9.8 K/9.0 IP). He was selected by Seattle in the fifth round of the 2010 June draft out of Tennessee Tech University.