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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bochy gets his guy, Giants sign Michael Morse

Ever since Melky Cabrera's suspension in early August of 2012, the Giants have been void of an everyday left fielder. It didn't hurt them down the stretch that year, as Hunter Pence's arrival helped ease the loss, but it became a gaping hole in 2013 when they ranked last in the NL in offense from the left field position.

They weren't going to make the same mistake twice. After identifying a short list of potential targets heading into this weeks Winter Meetings, they moved on the guy they felt was the best fit under the circumstances and someone manager Bruce Bochy expressed a strong interest in.

It was never going to be a big-ticket, enticing free agent but the ideal plan all along was to find a right-handed bat with the ability to put balls in the left-field bleachers with regularity. So long as Michael Morse's wrists stay healthy and he avoids the nagging injuries that weighed him down in 2013, he should be counted on to do just that. He's coming off a forgettable, injury-riddled season where he was doing OK until going down in June and the Giants are hoping a shift back to the NL and improved health will help him get back to his pre-2013 offensive form. If you take his 162-game average over the previous 3 seasons (2010-12), Morse's numbers look pretty darn solid. In '10, he slashed .289/15/41/.870 over 266 at-bats followed by a .303/31/95/.910 line in '11 (522 at-bats) and a .291/18/62/.792 line in '12 (422 at-bats). If he gave the Giants a repeat of 2012, it'd be far better than anything they got in left in 2013. This isn't a slam dunk signing though, as there are certainly some weaknesses to his game that make this risky, and the Giants are aware of it. He's a hacker and doesn't have a high walk rate, though it's always been offset by his power and solid average. His outfield defense is below average and he could prove to be a liability out there at times in close games. The Giants appear willing to sacrifice defense for "potential" offense in this case, a la Pat Burrell in 2010. At just $5M base salary it's not a terrible gamble and his defense hopefully won't be too much of an issue with Gregor Blanco around to caddy him. His power is above average to all fields and he's equally effective, if not more so, vs. righties as he is vs. lefties making a platoon unnecessary as long as he's 100% and not butchering left field.

I don't love this deal by any stretch, but when analyzing all aspects of it from the money/length of the deal, the potential offense he'll bring to this club and his positive presence in the clubhouse, it's not the worst thing they could have done. I'm well aware that Morse has the type of holes in his game that will probably have us yelling at our TV more than once this season, but if his offense comes back around like the Giants are banking on, he'll be well worth the defensive gamble. He does instantly make the everyday lineup much more imposing on paper just by being here, as he's an offensive presence that can change the way opposing teams pitch guys in front of him. Blanco just doesn't give you that aspect. The bottom of the order improves and the Giants' overall depth has improved with the deal.. They didn't have to part with any prospects to get some offense and they didn't have to give away another multi-year deal. Worst case scenario with this deal, Morse battles injury again and becomes a platoon/power bat off the bench when healthy. Best case, he reverts back to 2010-11 form and gives the Giants a 30-HR threat who hits around .300 and drives in a ton of runs. That's not a bad dice-roll at all under these terms. Plus Morse knows the 2014 season is a big one for him personally, which is added incentive. If he has a year like 2011, it'll line him up for a huge multi-year deal next winter, and I expect him to be in "beast mode" this season because of that.

So, although it wasn't a big name like Jacoby Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz or Carlos Beltran, the Giants did something they failed to do last winter and that's find themselves an everyday guy in left. How good that guy turns out being remains to be seen, but the attempt has been made. In wake of the deal, Bochy gave some hints at the lineup he's leaning towards entering the 2014 season, with Brandon Belt likely slotting into the 3-hole, Posey sticking at cleanup, Pence 5th, Sandoval 6th and Morse 7th. I like Gregor Blanco, and he's still a very important piece to the 2014 puzzle, but the lineup just looks much more formidable now that he's not being forced into it as an everyday guy. He gets to take on the role as the clear-cut 4th outfielder and that's where he's most valuable. Morse also has the ability to play right field, first base and some third base in a pinch, which adds to his value.

It all comes down to his health and his bat. He's going to have some hiccups in left, that's a given. If he hits for power and average like they're hoping, and they can supplement Blanco in at the right times, those hiccups will be tolerable and it's a solid signing. If not, he essentially becomes a more expensive version of Brett Pill. I kind of liked the idea of Alejandro De Aza (if he came cheaply) and would have been ecstatic had a deal for Jose Bautista went down (without involving Crick, Blackburn, Escobar, Mejia or Williamson), but if it came down to Morse or the standing pat, I'm glad they got him. Plus it's not as if they're paying him so much that if it doesn't work out, they can't re-visit a trade mid-season.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really love this deal. We finally have legit power in left for the first time since Barry Bonds. Pat Burrell doesn't count really cause he played 1/2 a season and was at the end of the road. Morse is in his prime and bound for a huge comeback.

    Defense only issue with him, but judging by his fielding pctg, it's not as bad as people are making it out to be. I wonder if Belt is better in left than he is? I know Boch mentioned Morse as a possible first basemen too.

  • At 3:51 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    You know what's kind of surprising is Morse actually came up as a shortstop. I'm surprised he's not better defensively than he is seeing as he played most his life up the middle.

    Anyway, it shows that while he's got his flaws defensively, he's versatile enough to manage at either corner outfield or infield spot and make most of the routine plays. With his history in the infield, he's probably better fielding grounders than fly-balls, but Boch and Sabes are on record of saying Belt's not moving positions and Morse was signed to play left field.

    Had he been coming out of 2012 instead of last season, he's probably up there right behind Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz and gets a multi-year deal with an 8-figure annual salary instead of 1/$5M. All we can do is hope 2013 was a mirage and not the beginning of a decline.

  • At 1:10 PM, Anonymous karlsBAD said…

    So are the Giants really done for the offseason? I keep seeing articles "Grading the Giants offseason" but last time I checked, Spring training doesn't start until March, and we can still upgrade our bench and bullpen... Are they planning on doing anything else or is this the 2014 Giants?


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