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Is Kendrys Morales on his way to the Indians?

The Angels have more hitters than lineup spots and are looking to trade someone. The Indians are on the list of teams interested.

Stephen Dunn

After signing Josh Hamilton to a 5-year, $125 million contract, the Angels must figure out how to fit all of their players onto the field. Mike Trout will be in center and Albert Pujols will be at first base, Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Vernon Wells and Kendrys Morales will cover left and right fields and the DH spot. That's two men too many, and while having one of them on the bench might make sense, two of them there would limit the Angel's bullpen or put them awfully thin in terms of infield depth. One of them is likely to be moved.

It's not going to be Wells, because no one wants the 2 years, $49 million left on his contract (yep, $49 million). It's unlikely to be Trumbo, because he is the best hitter of the bunch and still only 26 years old. It could be Bourjos. He's an excellent fielder and was a very valuable player in 2011 (his hitting cratered and he was the odd-man out last year), he's likely have some value to teams. The Angels are said to be keen on keeping him around though, because he allows them to get Hamilton and Trumbo both some time at DH. With Trout out there too, the team has incredible outfield defense when Bourjos plays (hell, Trout, Bourjos, and ME would make a pretty solid outfield). It seems most likely to me that the player Anaheim looks to move will be Morales.

In fact, ESPN's Jim Bowden reported earlier today that multiple American League teams have already expressed interest in Morales. Furthermore, he speculates that the Indians are one of those teams (along with the Rays and Astros).

Here are Morales' career numbers, note that he missed the entire 2011 season and has played in just 185 total games over the last three years (you may recall, he suffered a flukish but serious ankle injury while arriving at home plate after hitting a game-winning home run in May of 2010):

2006 23 LAA AL 57 215 21 46 10 1 5 22 17 28 .234 .293 .371 .664 71
2007 24 LAA AL 43 126 12 35 10 0 4 15 6 21 .294 .333 .479 .812 111
2008 25 LAA AL 27 66 7 13 2 0 3 8 4 7 .213 .273 .393 .666 73
2009 26 LAA AL 152 622 86 173 43 2 34 108 46 117 .306 .355 .569 .924 139
2010 27 LAA AL 51 211 29 56 5 0 11 39 12 31 .290 .346 .487 .833 129
2012 29 LAA AL 134 522 61 132 26 1 22 73 31 116 .273 .320 .467 .787 121
6 Yrs 464 1762 216 455 96 4 79 265 116 320 .281 .331 .491 .823 119

Morales was a dominant hitter in 2009 and again in 2010 before his injury (he finished 5th in the 2009 A.L. MVP voting. His 137 OPS+ over those two years was tied for 18th best in all of baseball. He wasn't the same hitter in 2012 as he had been before the injury. His K% increased, and he hit more ground balls, at the expense of some fly balls, diminishing his power. Still, he put up strong numbers, stronger than just about anyone in Cleveland. Given full playing time, he should be expected to hit 25 home runs or so, power the Tribe could use.

Morales is about to enter his last season of arbitration eligibility, but because of the missed season, he only made $2.975M last year, so even with a decent raise, he's not likely to make more than $5 million in 2013 (he'll be a free agent at the end of the season). The Angels would seem to be in the market for more pitching. The Indians aren't in a position to help anyone else's rotation, but if the Angels are willing to look at bolstering their bullpen, there might be a fit. Could this be a possible landing spot for Chris Perez, or maybe Joe Smith, who's about to enter his last season before free agency, and might not be long for the Tribe. If acquired, Morales would share first base duties with Mark Reynolds, allowing each to DH a fair amount too (also making it easier for Reynolds to occasionally spell Lonnie Chisenhall at third base).

I think Morales will help a team more than either Perez or Smith in 2013, and I don't see either of those relievers as an integral part of the Indians' future (there'd be no reason to pursue Morales if the price were a prospect). The downside to such a deal, as I see it, isn't in the player the Indians would lose, it's in tying up playing time at first base and the DH spot, leaving precious little of it for Carlos Santana. Still, if Morales is available for a relief pitcher, I think it would be a good move, the playing time could be sorted out later. It will take a bigger acquisition than this one to give the Tribe a real chance of contending in 2013, but every little bit counts, and I think they'd be a better team with Morales on board.