Morales receives qualifying offer from Mariners

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners

Designated hitter Kendrys Morales received a qualifying offer from the Mariners prior to Monday’s 2 p.m. PT deadline and now will have seven days to accept or reject that one-year, $14.1 million contract.

The news isn’t a big surprise, as general manager Jack Zduriencik indicated a month ago that he’d pursue that course once qualifying offers were due.

Morales was the only one of Seattle’s seven free agents who received a qualifying offer, which requires the club to extend a one-year deal for the average salary of the 125 top-paid players in the Majors last season. That figure is $14.1 million, up from $13.3 million last season in the initial year of the new system.

Morales and his agent, Scott Boras, are likely to reject the offer in order to test the free-agent market in order to negotiate a longer-term deal with any club, including Seattle. Last year, nine players around the Majors were extended qualifying offers and all turned them down.

But by making the qualifying bid, the Mariners are assured of receiving a compensatory pick at the end of the first round of next June’s Draft should Morales sign with another team. Players have until 2 p.m. PT on Monday, Nov. 11 to accept a qualifying offer, but can decline it at any time and sign with another club.

All free agents in the Major Leagues are free to sign with any team beginning at 9:01 p.m. PT on Monday night. Seattle has six other players in that category – outfielders Raul Ibanez, Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez; catcher Humberto Quintero; and left-handed pitchers Joe Saunders and Oliver Perez.

The Mariners are interested in pursuing a longer deal with Morales, who led the club in batting average (.277), hits (167), doubles (34), RBIs (80) and extra-base hits (57) in his first season in Seattle after being obtained in a trade with the Angels for Jason Vargas.

Morales, 30, hit 23 home runs and tied for fourth in the American League with a 15 game-winning RBIs. He hit .312 (44-for-141) with runners in scoring position, providing a needed clutch bat in the middle of Seattle’s young order.

That bat will make Morales attractive to some other teams as well, but he is limited defensively as Seattle started him just 31 times at first base and 121 times at designated hitter in 2013. The Cuban native missed all of 2011 after shattering his ankle in a home-plate celebration following a walkoff home run against the Mariners in 2010, but he played 134 games with the Angels in 2012 and 156 with Seattle last season.

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