Hartman: Pohlads approved signing of Morales

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 8, 2014 - 11:47 PM

The Twins owners stepped up with a competitive offer when the free agent slugger was available.

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Kendrys Morales, second from right, was introduced Sunday as the newest member of the Twins.

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One thing about the Pohlad family, who have owned the Twins since 1984 when the late Carl Pohlad bought the team that is now run by his sons: To my knowledge, they have never said no to a general manager of the club if they wanted the money to sign a player to help the team win.

This was the case when Jim Pohlad was approached a week ago and told that Kendrys Morales, one of the better hitters in the game, was available as a free agent.

“[General Manager] Terry Ryan and [assistant GM] Rob Antony came to Jim Pohlad and myself about a week ago,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “They wanted to make a run at Morales and ultimately we got it done about 24 hours ago. We think he’s going to be a big part of our offense here and can hopefully add to a team that we think is very much in the mix and can contend here throughout the balance of the season.

“He is out of options, we don’t have the ability to send him to the minor leagues; he’s not hurt so he can’t [go on the disabled list]. So we’re going to have to pick our spots in order to get him into our lineup but I suspect we’ll take that slow.”

Morales will be paid a prorated $12 million salary worth about $7.5 million for the remainder of the season, the third-highest per-year salary on the team behind Joe Mauer and Ricky Nolasco.

The reason Morales missed the first two months of the season is because any team who signed him as a free agent would have had to give up a draft pick — the Twins would have lost a second-rounder — but that problem disappeared after the draft was held this week.

Jim Pohlad said there was no doubt Ryan would get the go-ahead to sign Morales, and Pohlad told me Sunday they would be willing to sign another player if he could help the team.

“[The front office] knew our position, so I found out about it [Saturday],” Pohlad said. “I think it’s a good deal. The player is motivated, we’re motivated to have him. I look forward to good things.”

And how does Pohlad feel about the play of the Twins so far this season?

“It feels like there’s a different attitude,” he said. “It wasn’t great the last three years and so I believe there’s a different feeling and I think it’s good.”

Ryan liked signing

Ryan was asked if the addition of Morales could spark the team like Shannon Stewart did in 2003 when he was acquired in the middle of the season from Toronto.

“Well, we’re getting [Morales] earlier, that’s a good thing,” Ryan said. “This guy is more of a DH profile than Shannon Stewart was at the time. But we’re hoping he comes in here and provides some offense for this ballclub, we sure as heck could use it.”

Was he scouted a lot?

“We saw him with the Angels in the previous years, and then he went to Seattle,” Ryan said. “He had a good year for Seattle last year in a tough ballpark to hit in.”

Morales hit .277 with 23 home runs, 34 doubles and 80 RBI in 156 games last season.

Ryan talked about approaching the Pohlads for approval to spend the big bucks to sign Morales.

“They have always been generous when it comes to asking whether or not we have the wherewithal to go get a guy when it presents itself,” he said. “They have always been very receptive as long as you can back up what you think in your scouting reports and your evaluation.”

Ryan was second-guessed by a lot of people for his free-agent signings coming into this season, but a lot of those players are proving him right.

“You go into the free-agent market and it is always decisions that you come out of there with regarding your evaluations,” said Ryan, who is making a good recovery after treatments for cancer in his neck. “Some guys come in and make an immediate impact, sometimes it takes guys a year or so to get comfortable, but the jury is still out on exactly what we did do or didn’t do as far as free agency. We hit on some and we’re going to miss on some. It’s just the nature of pursuing free agents.”

Which players have surprised Ryan?

“[Catcher Kurt] Suzuki has had a good go and [pitcher Phil] Hughes has had a good go,” he said. “We’ve had a couple that have struggled to some extent. We feel pretty good about this club. This club has responded some. We’re certainly competitive. We’re much better than we were a year ago.”

Can this club finish high in the standings?

“You always have a chance,” Ryan said. “You still have to execute. Our starting pitching has to lead the way. You aren’t going to do it with offense, you’re going to do it with starting pitching. Our bullpen has been pretty reliable. We have to get better starts, more quality starts, consistent starting, to see where it will take us.”

Jottings

• The MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby next month are sold out, and attendance for each is expected to be more than 40,000. There are still a limited number of tickets available for All-Star Sunday on July 13, which features the MLB Futures Game and the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. … The Twins and MLB are planning two major All-Star Game hospitality events in conjunction with the game at Target Field. The All-Star Gala takes place following the Home Run Derby on July 14 and will be held along West River Parkway near the Mill City Museum in downtown Minneapolis. The All-Star pregame celebration on July 15 will be staged in the Rapid Park lot adjacent to the stadium.

• On Friday night, the Twins’ St. Peter was the keynote speaker at an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Puckett Scholars program at the University of Minnesota. Founded in 1994 by Kirby and Tonya Puckett, the program has provided academic scholarships to more than 80 minority students. … Grant Hockin, the grandson of Twins legend Harmon Killebrew, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the MLB amateur draft this weekend. Hockin, a righthanded pitcher, played at Damien High School in La Verne, Calif., and is committed to attend UCLA. … When Chuck Knoblauch is inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame on August 23 at Target Field, look for his former manager, Tom Kelly, to introduce him.

• Former Gophers basketball player Trevor Mbakwe had posted six consecutive double-doubles in the Serie A playoffs for Virtus Rome in Italy, including a 15-point, 11-rebound effort Wednesday, but that streak ended Friday when he scored only two points and grabbed nine rebounds in a winning effort. … A number of local basketball stars will be taking part in the Grassroots Hoops Club All-Star event at Concordia (St. Paul) on June 22, including Mbakwe, Jordair Jett, Troy Bell, Rodney Williams and Moe Hargrow.

 

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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