The Seattle Mariners made it very clear last week. They like Kendrys Morales.
They like the way he hits. They like the way he fits in the middle of the order. They like his presence in the clubhouse.
And they would like to keep him in a Seattle uniform after this season.
General manager Jack Zduriencik told the media after the trade deadline that he has had preliminary talks with Morales and his agent, Scott Boras, about his future with the team.
It’s why the Mariners didn’t trade him despite several inquiries.
“To me, our best option was to keep him here,” Zduriencik said last week on Sports Radio KJR. “We do have the qualifying offer that we are prepared to make. We are also trying to do something with Kendrys as we move forward.”
The qualifying offer means that the Mariners have the first right to sign Morales to a contract extension. If he chooses to go elsewhere, they would receive a compensatory draft pick in the first round of next year’s amateur draft.
But the Mariners would rather keep Morales.
After Wednesday’s game, a 9-7 Mariners win over Toronto in Seattle, the 30-year-old designated hitter was batting .298 with 27 doubles and 17 homers. He has a team-high .351 on-base percentage to go with a .487 slugging percentage.
He has been everything the Mariners wanted when they acquired him from the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher Jason Vargas in December.
Lately, Morales has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
Last Thursday and Friday, he had back-to-back four-hit games, just the second Mariners player to accomplish that feat. Ichiro Suzuki did it three times, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
“I’m trying to be aggressive on the first pitch,” Morales said Saturday through bullpen coach and interpreter Jaime Navarro. “If they throw them for strikes, I’m going to go after them. That’s the best thing I’ve been doing. Right now I feel comfortable doing that, and it’s working for me.”
“He’s been pretty steady all season long,” acting manager Robby Thompson said of Morales. “This is probably the best he’s been. The guy has ice in his veins. He’s as even-keeled a player as I’ve ever been around.”
Morales is keeping that attitude when it comes to his future.
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I’m not worrying about that. I’m worried about finishing strong, and after that, we’ll talk about it.”
That’s not to say he’s opposed to staying with the organization.
“I feel comfortable here,” he said. “I like what I see. We have a young team, and I like it a lot. But that’s something they need to work on, a decision from the office, and I’m not going to worry about it and just keep helping the team.”
Mariners 9, Blue Jays 7
Humberto Quintero’s two-run homer highlighted a six-run fifth inning, and Mariners rallied for a victory to spoil the return of Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ.
Happ made his first start since May 7, when he suffered a skull fracture and a sprained right knee after being struck behind the left ear by a line drive from Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings. Happ left the field on a stretcher, spent the night in the hospital and had three months of rehabilitation, primarily for the knee.
Presented with a 7-2 lead by the third inning, Happ couldn’t deny the fifth-inning rally, leaving with the bases loaded and no outs.
Brandon Maurer (3-7), who allowed eight baserunners and no runs in 3 1/3 innings, earned the win.
Aaron Harang went just two-plus innings, allowing seven runs and five hits. He walked three and all scored.
It was the shortest outing for Harang this season. The last time he worked just two innings was Oct. 3, 2010, with Cincinnati against Milwaukee. He has had two career one-inning outings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.