Black Sox Beat Writer
Chicago Sports Online[/b]
The Chicago Black Sox gave Santiago Morales his unconditional release on Thursday, parting ways with a talented fielder who many observers expected would be the team’s starting shortstop this season.
Adding to the surprise was that Morales is owed $3.6 million for this season and $4 million for 2043 – money the team will, in effect, eat for nothing.
“No, not for nothing,” corrected General Manager Benedetta “Benny” Vitale. “Although we certainly value what Mr. Morales has brought to our organization for the past four years, the fact is that we would have been paying him that money to sit on the bench and take up a valuable roster spot.
“We consider waiving him and sending him to our AAA club in Carolina, but this way we not only roster flexibility, but we clear a bit of salary cap space this season and next.
"I would also point out that our baseball efficiency consultants, the Kocherschmeltz Group, graded Mr. Morales with their proprietary orange "below average" color code. Simply not acceptable."
Morales, who made no secret of his displeasure at sitting on the bench last year behind Mark Wareham - who left for free agency at the end of last season - was caught by surprise when told of the move Thursday morning.
“No, that was a bolt out of the blue,” said the 31-year-old native of Venezuela. “I can’t say I’m too sorry about it, though. They clearly have plans that don’t include me, so I’d rather be free now to see where else I might play. If no one in the BBA is interested, maybe a team in the UMEBA could use me.
“I’d kinda love playing over there while still collecting a nice check from the Sox. Screw ‘em.”
Morales was slashing .182/.250/.227 in 14 spring training games, and was coming off a subpar 2041 in which he slashed .229/.288/.375 with just 55 plate appearances.
His departure likely leaves the Chicago shortstop job in the hands of rookie Miguel Valdéz, who is nearly Morales’ equal in the field (scouts especially like his ability to turn double plays, grading him at an 11 on a 10-point scale) and figures to be an upgrade at the plate.
In 11 spring training games, Valdéz has put up a .300/.444/.400 slashline, and last season was a key member of a AA Beloit Blue Sox team that won the Warren Cox League championship. Valdéz was the starting shortstop and slashed .274/.337/.373 for Beloit.
“We realize that Miguel’s spring training numbers are a small sample size, but we’re confident he’ll be able to at least hold his own at the plate in the BBA and give us strong shortstop play in the field,” said Sox Manager Julián Negrete. “This is his chance to shine, and we’re confident he’ll do just that.”
True to his reputation as an outspoken young man, the 23-year-old Valdéz welcomed the challenge.
“Hey, all I need is a chance,” he said. “No way I was going to sit behind Santiago all season. I mean, he's a good guy and all that, but he can’t hit his way out of a Shake n’ Bake bag, am I right? I’m lookin’ forward this, man. Bring it on!”