TORONTO — It is a phenomenon born to the parents of collective bargaining and unintended consequences. A blight, really, on an industry engaged in a multi-front battle to increase its customer base.
Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel found themselves afflicted with it, before Kimbrel agreed to a deal with the Cubs on Wednesday. Only one other player exists who can speak to this specific condition. He just happens to be on the Yankees, who are in discussions with Keuchel while wondering how much they can reasonably expect from him.
“It’s tough when you start at that time, around June,” Kendrys Morales told The Post on Tuesday, through an interpreter. “It’s not the regular two, three months that you’re off baseball. It’s more like six. You have to get used to that very quickly. You have to make the adjustments. You want to produce, but it’s going to take you a little bit to adjust. You have to make the adjustments on the fly because you only basically have three months left of the season.”
Keuchel, a free agent since the end of last year’s World Series, hopes to find a new employer shortly now that the amateur draft has completed. No longer must a signing team give up a draft pick in addition to the dollars for a free agent who rejected his team’s qualifying offer, as both Keuchel and Kimbrel did.
This marked the seventh free agency incorporating the qualifying offer, by virtue of the basic labor agreement announced in November 2011. Many players, fairly or unfairly, have found their earning power compromised by this principle, and too many to list have pushed their pursuits for a fair deal into spring training and the regular season.
Just three, however, have carried out their free agencies all the way past the draft, thereby eliminating the compensation. Keuchel and Kimbrel were the second and third. Morales became the first in 2014.
Then 30, Morales put up a solid but not great 2013 campaign with the Mariners, a slash line of .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs in 602 at-bats. Seattle, looking to contend in 2014, extended the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to the designated hitter. With agent Scott Boras — who now represents Keuchel — he rejected the offer on Nov. 11, 2013.
The 2014 amateur draft ran June 5-7. On June 8, Morales signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Twins, who lurked on the periphery of the pennant race. He debuted with Minnesota the very next day, and he actually put up a .360/.407/.480 slash line in his first six games. In his next 33 games, however, he slashed a putrid .209/.230/.295, going deep just once in 129 at-bats.
“The thing is that you’re starting the season when everybody else has the hitting rhythm,” Morales said before the Yankees’ 11-7 loss to the Blue Jays. “Pitchers are up to speed. So it’s basically you’re playing catch-up. It’s difficult.”
The Twins, who fell completely out of the race as Morales flailed on their dime, traded the veteran back to the Mariners on July 24. With Seattle, Morales improved his on-base and slugging percentages yet still limped to a .207/.285/.347 line, completing his worst full major league season.
In December 2014, Morales joined his third team of the calendar year, signing a two-year, $17 million contract with the Royals. A normal offseason produced a normal season for him — .290/.362/.485 with 22 homers and a World Series ring as the Royals topped the Mets in the Fall Classic.
Asked what advice he’d give to Keuchel and Kimbrel, Morales said, “They’re going to have to find a routine and get back on track with their routine, because the hitters they’re going to face are going to be up to speed from playing two months now into the season. But they’ll find a routine and they should be OK.”
Their new teams will sure hope so. Morales, however, the patient zero of this condition, proved not to be OK until he had moved completely past his professional crisis. Which surely won’t help Keuchel’s and Kimbrel’s bargaining power.
Source: Read Full Article