During the Oakland Athletics’ workout at the Oakland Coliseum late last week, executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said explicitly that the club did not have to look at external options to replace injured first baseman Matt Olson, expected to miss about five more weeks with a surgically-excised broken hamate bone.
The A’s, Beane and manager Bob Melvin said, would be more than comfortable using a platoon of Mark Canha and Jurickson Profar (with Chad Pinder thrown in) until Olson got back.
On Wednesday, less than 24 hours before rosters have to be made official, and less than 12 hours since Melvin detailed the balance of the expected Opening Day roster, the A’s made a move for a first baseman. Oakland acquired former Los Angeles Angel Kendrys Morales from the Toronto Blue Jays for a minor-league infielder, a move that could have an impact on one particular member of the 25-man roster.
The A’s dealt Jesus Lopez and international slot money to Toronto, and placed Jharel Cotton on the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster, but neither of those moves make room on the 25-man Opening Day crew. That likely means that Franklin Barreto — who made the roster because of his athleticism at second base, his quick-study crash course in playing all three outfield spots this spring, and his .351 batting average in spring training — will be optioned to Triple-A.
Melvin has said time and time again that Barreto is a star in the making, and a side benefit of the platoon at first was that it allowed him to play second more often, as Profar (the starting second baseman, and someone with 20-home run, 100-RBI potential) would be playing more at first. With Morales — who hit 21 homers and drove in 57 runs last season — that calculus changes.
Morales, 35, has spent 12 years in the majors, and hit hit .249 with a .331 on-base percentage in 130 games played with Toronto in 2018. He put together an MLB-leading seven-game home run streak from Aug. 19-26 (8 HR) last year, earning American League Player of the Week honors for Aug. 20-26 (.478/.500/1.191, 7 HR, 12 RBI). The seven-game homer streak is one shy of the MLB record (three times).
Morales has played 416 career games at first base, 23 games in right field and one game at third base, with a career .994 fielding percentage. A career .268 hitter, Morales has hit 211 home runs, driven in 728 runs and owns a .788 OPS in 1,310 career games with the Angels (against whom the A’s open the season on Thursday), Seattle, Minnesota and Kansas City.