Mike Morse: Potential Steal?

The Beast has a new home… and he’ll be roaming around Bonds’ old stomping grounds.

I was back home in Northern California all week for a business trip that doubled as a vacation with the family, so I apologize for being late to the Morse party. I’ve definitely got my share of opinions, though, and have been making mental notes since the signing was made a few days ago. The rumors of possible LF candidates picked up some steam on Wednesday with names like Franklin Gutierrez and Jeff Baker being tossed around. In the end, Sabean found his guy, and snuck out of Orlando with Mike Morse, aka The Beast, signed to a 1-year deal. Apparently Houston was among the other clubs trying to lure Morse in. Personally, I think it was a no-brainer… 2 years to DH for the Astros, who really don’t look to be going anywhere for at least a few more seasons, or 1 year to play LF for a winning organization that’s hoping to get back in the race. Hmmm…

Anyway, Morse is a Giant for $6M, with some possible incentives that I haven’t read too much about yet. It turns out the skipper thinks pretty highly of Morse, and probably advocated to Sabean on his behalf. Bochy wanted a LF with some pop, and that’s what he’s getting with Morse. Compared to what else was available, and what other teams were asking for in trades, Morse was definitely a realistic candidate all along. Maybe he was so realistic that most people just wrote it off from the start. I think that’s what I did, although I did say back in October that I wanted Sabes to find the next Pat Burrell-type player to man LF. I’d say Morse fits the bill.

I know the reactions to this deal were pretty mixed, and I expect it to stay that way until the big guy has spent some time on the field next year. But I’ll be honest, I’m glad the Giants made this move. Obviously, Morse has his issues, but he’s also got as much upside of just about any other player that was available on the cheap. Had he performed up to expectations in Seattle this year, he’d have probably earned himself a nice little extension, or at least received a qualifying offer. Instead, his season fell apart, and the trade so Baltimore late in the year didn’t do him any favors either. So, The Beast went on the open market, looking for a reclamation deal. The Giants know a thing or two about those.

It’s already been stated that Morse is going to play everyday, and that Gregor Blanco will be the late-inning sub. This has quite a few folks in a rage, and I’m sure most of those people will be ready to strike with the old “I told ya’ so” if Morse struggles next season. Look, we all know the dude lumbers in the field. He’s a liability in left, and probably more suited for a DH role at this point in his career. But Sabean set out to find himself a starting LF with power, and Morse is exactly that. Sure, it’d be nice to have a guy with a power bat and above average defense out there… but those guys are called 5-tool players, and they general don’t come cheap on the open market. So, you just hope that Morse is healthy enough to crack a few moonshots out of the park, and trust Bochy to get Blanco or Perez into the game for defense when it’s necessary. They showed us they knew what they were doing with Pat the Bat in 2010, so it’s hard not to envision a similar situation going down next year with Morse. And I would also be willing to bet that Blanco will get his fair share of AB’s, as Morse and Pagan are both pretty injury prone out there.

I’ll tell you what I like most about this deal: Morse lengthens the lineup. The Giants now have 5 guys with legitimate 20-HR power in Morse, Pence, Posey, Sandoval and Belt. And just by walking through the door, Morse becomes the only player on the team with a 30-HR season to his name. Not a lot of guys can say that in MLB today, and those who can generally don’t come cheap. If he’s healthy, Morse is a .275+ hitter with tremendous power and without platoon splits. That’s a huge upgrade in the 6 or 7-hole over Blanco, and it also pushes Brandon Crawford back to the #8 spot. That’s what I call depth through the entire order, something the Giants haven’t always had. Yes, you’re asking for a few things to break right here, but if they do, we could be looking at a pretty stout lineup, and hopefully not a lot of Blanco-Crawford-Pitcher wasted innings anymore. I can say this though. If Morse is productive in the 7-hole, I’d expect the Giants to be very much in contention.

Let’s be clear about something: I’m not naïve to the issues the Giants face heading into next season. With the addition of Morse, we’re now looking at four players with serious health concerns (Morse, Sandoval, Pagan, Scutaro). If one of these guys goes down, as they all did last year, where’s the backup plan? Bringing in Morse definitely helps add depth to the OF, as Blanco and Perez could platoon if Morse or Pagan misses time. The infield might be a bigger concern at this point. Obviously though, if both Morse and Pagan hit the deck, it’s going to be a long season… I don’t like to speculate on things like that, but it’s definitely in the back of my mind. And of course, defense certainly could become an issue at some point. Again, though, I’m going to trust the organization’s better judgment to not let one player’s defensive shortcomings hurt the team. Bochy seems to pull the right strings with late-game replacements most of the time.

So, Morse is a Giant for a year, and maybe another offseason steal. We’re hoping he’ll hit 20+ HR and not kill us on defense. Can he stay healthy? Who knows? But for the price, I’ll gladly take a shot on that upside. He’s big and charismatic, and I think he’ll fit in well with the rest of the club. It looks like the roster is mostly set at this point, except for a few bench and bullpen spots that should play out in spring training. We’ve got plenty of time to look at what this group has to offer going forward, but for now, at least we don’t have to speculate about LF anymore. That job belongs to The Beast… and hopefully he makes the front office look like geniuses by this time next year.