Kendrys Morales is on his way back to Seattle to try and give the Mariners’ struggling offense a boost as they chase a playoff spot.
The Minnesota Twins traded Morales to the Mariners on Thursday for minor-league pitcher Stephen Pryor. Morales hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the Mariners last season but turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle to become a free agent.
"He’s a professional hitter," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He gives us the opportunity to stretch out our lineup, so to speak. He’s a nice fit, switch-hitter, hitting behind Robbie (Cano).
"He gives us options, what we want to do with (Kyle) Seager, where we want to hit him," McClendon said. "I like it."
Morales sat out the first two months of the season while searching for a new deal, signing a pro-rated $12 million contract with the Twins on June 8. But he hit .234 with 11 doubles, one homer and 18 RBI in 39 games with the Twins, who have faded from contention in the American League Central.
The Mariners, who started the day with a half-game lead for the second wild-card spot in the AL, are hoping a return to Safeco Field could help Morales rediscover his swing. Seattle has the best ERA in the majors, but the Mariners offense is 14th in the American League in runs scored.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said missing spring training and the first two months of the season has had an impact on Morales’ slow start. He believes he’s close to his hitting stride.
"I don’t think there is any question about that," Zduriencik said. "I thought it was interesting that he went right to the big leagues but that plays a part in the negotiations.
"Nevertheless, when you look at where he’s at right now, we know what Kendrys is, we know his career as a hitter, we know what he did here and now that he’s in a pennant race and technically has spring training under his belt — he did it at the major league level — I think we all feel that Kendrys is going to hit his stride and be the Kendrys Morales we all know," he added.
Morales was signed by the Twins to be the everyday designated hitter, but he played a lot of first base while filling in for the injured Joe Mauer.
"I think he was a good teammate. I think he was a good influence on some of the players in this clubhouse. He got off to a surprisingly quick start and then cooled off, of course," Twins GM Terry Ryan said. "We gave it a shot. Obviously, our club hasn’t responded."
In the first sign that the Twins are starting to look at selling some of their veteran pieces to retool for next season, they acquired the 25-year-old Pryor in the exchange. Pryor has appeared in 34 games for the Mariners since 2012, posting a 2.81 ERA. He will report to Triple-A Rochester.
Pryor, who once regularly had his pitches clocked at 100 mph, started this season on the disabled list after having surgery to repair a torn right latissimus dorsi muscle. He made one appearance for the Mariners this season. He was 2-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in 34-2/3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma this season.
The Twins also recalled infielder Jorge Polanco from Class A Fort Myers.