The Giants finally ended their long quest for a left fielder when they agreed to terms with Michael Morse, A.K.A. The Beast, on a 1-year, $5 million dollar deal plus incentives. The addition of Morse immediately upgrades the Giants left field that hit a grand total of 5 home runs in 2013 (Morse hit 4 HRs in a 3-game series vs Oakland last April!). Morse is a big guy (6’5”, 245 pounds) with enormous power, which was best displayed in 2011 when he hit 31 home runs with the Washington Nationals. 2011 was also the only year in Morse’s 9-year career where Morse has played more than 102 games, so the Giants are banking on Morse defying odds and staying on the field.
While Michael Morse has some of the best power in baseball, hand and wrist injuries have sapped some of it in recent years. Here are his home run totals over the past couple of years:
2011: 31 HR in 522 AB (1 HR every 16.84 AB)
2012: 18 HR in 406 AB (1; 22.56)
2013: 13 HR in 312 AB (1; 24.0)
Most wrist and hand injuries take a year or two for power to fully return, so Morse should be closer to full strength in 2014 with the Giants. Injuries likely played a large role in Morse’s poor batting average in 2013 as well, as he hit only .215 for Seattle and Baltimore despite being a career .281 hitter. Morse does not walk much (just 121 career walks in over 2,000 plate appearances) so he will need his batting average to significantly increase from 2013 levels to prevent him from being an “all-or-nothing” type hitter. AT&T park should not be much of a factor for the right-handed hitting Morse, as he has played most of his career in tough hitter’s parks like Seattle and Washington and is known for hitting tape measure home runs, even to the opposite field. Adding Morse will stretch the Giants lineup and even make it almost appear formidable on paper. Here is what the 2014 Opening Day lineup could look like:
1) Angel Pagan CF
2) Marco Scutaro 2B
3) Brandon Belt LF
4) Buster Posey C
5) Hunter Pence RF
6) Pablo Sandoval 3B
7) Michael Morse LF
8) Brandon Crawford SS
While many people believe Morse will be a one-man circus in left field, the numbers suggest he should be ok. In Morse’s 153 career games in left field, he has an Rtot (Total Zone Fielding Above Average) of zero, which means he is essentially average out there. Also, with Blanco now moving to his more natural role as the team’s 4th outfielder, he would be available as Morse’s late inning defensive replacement if needed. Morse also gives the Giants some flexibility as he can also play 1B and could spell Belt there every once in a while against tough left handed pitchers. Another plus is that Morse is a great clubhouse guy and is very much cut from the same cloth as his new teammate, Hunter Pence. You can see for yourself here:
Overall I feel like this was a good signing for the Giants. If Morse stays on the field, he could be one of the best free agent bargains of this free agent crop. If he gets hurt like in years past, he is on a team-friendly 1-year deal and the Giants should have flexibility to make a mid-season trade for a replacement. Morse brings much-needed power to the Giants outfield and the Giants now have a great change of pace guy with Blanco moving to the bench. Best of all, adding Morse didn’t cost the Giants any prospects or draft picks which is HUGE considering the skyrocketing price of free agents.