Welcome to the Bench: Franklin Morales

Background
Born: 1/24/1986 (30 years old) San Juan de los Morros, Guarico, Venezuela
Drafted: Signed as an amateur free agent in 2002 by the Colorado Rockies
Teams: Colorado Rockies (2007-2011, 2014), Boston Red Sox (2011-2013), Kansas City Royals (2015)
Positions: Pitcher
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 210 lbs
Bat: Left
Throw: Left
Baseball Reference Bio

Franklin Morales Stats
Fangraphs Page

The Signing
April 2, the Toronto Blue Jays sign relief pitcher Franklin Morales to a one year, $2 million deal. His contract isn’t guaranteed, which is pretty uncommon for a major league deal. Toronto journalist John Lott does a good job of describing the specifics of this unorthodox deal:

It is, in fact, not unusual. But the “non-guaranteed” label left a few fans and writers scratching their heads. This is not the NFL, after all. Baseball contracts at typically player-friendly, which is to say, guaranteed.

It sounded like Morales was on some sort of probation. He is, in a way, but only for 45 days.

According to Jays’ GM Ross Atkins, here’s how the deal works. For a non-guaranteed contract to apply, a player must have five or more years of major-league service time and sign a specific provision agreeing to accept a non-guaranteed deal.

That means that if the player is released or sent to the minors within 45 days of reporting to his new team, the club does not have to pay him his major-league salary. If he’s sent to the minors, he is paid minor-league wages. If he is released or sent down after 45 days, the club is on the hook for his entire big-league salary.

Jays officials say they have made non-guaranteed deals countless times in the past. An out-of-work player like Morales is typically willing to forego a guaranteed salary in order to get a job. The team minimizes risk; if the player tanks within 45 days, or becomes redundant in some other way, the financial outlay is minimal.

While the arrangement may be commonplace, actually announcing that a contract is non-guaranteed is unusual, it appears.

It is often ised when a veteran player who is not on the 40-man roster is brought up from the minors as an emergency replacement.

What he brings to the team

The Jays have their lefty. Ever since Aaron Loup went down with a flexor strain this spring, the Jays have been looking for a left-handed middle-reliever to fill his role. After taking a look at Randy Choate and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, the Jays broke camp with the right-handed Ryan Tepera (whose reverse splits show a surprising effectiveness against left handed bats).

As of midnight of Opening Day Eve, the Jays sent Tepera down to make room for Morales on the big league club. At face value, Morales had a very effective 2015 season. He posted a pretty impressive 3.18 ERA for the World Series winning Kansas City Royals. Last season, Morales faced 107 left handed batter, and only gave up a .190 batting average and .558 OPS. That’s just what the doctor ordered.

Morales primarily throws a four-seam and a two-seam fastball that both average out at 92 MPH. He plays off of his fastball with a hard slider, a slow curveball and a changeup. He certainly has the stuff to be a good reliever, but when all is said and done, his results will be dictated by his location and pitch execution.

Why he’s on the bench

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The Milwaukee Brewers just cut him from his minor league contract. Good players don’t get cut by the Brewers. While the fact that Morales got a late start to Spring Training is not lost on me, the Brewers are expected to be one of the worst teams in the MLB.

I’ll have to wait and give him the old eye test before I can pass too much judgement, but I’m going in skeptical. For the Jays, they desperately need a left handed relief arm, so this signing is a low risk move. This could be Franklin’s last shot with a big league team for a while, so let’s see if he brings his A-game and shows us something while Loup works his way back from injury.

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