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Michael Morse Rumors
The Marlins have announced the signing of free agent Michael Morse to a two-year deal that brings his power bat back to the division in which it was established. Morse will receive a guaranteed $16MM over the two years, along with various additional incentives. He gets a $1MM signing bonus, along with $7MM (2015) and $8MM (2016) salaries, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter.
Presumably, Morse will step in at first base for the Fish, where he could be a primary option or a platoon mate for Garrett Jones. Then again, perhaps a platoon is unnecessary. Morse posted a .803 OPS against right-handers last year, roughly 50 points better than did Jones, and has historically carried minimal platoon splits. There is no denying his bat, at least when healthy. Last year, he slashed .279/.336/.475 and added 16 long balls.
Though he does have one thirty-home run season to his credit, Morse is far from a fly-ball hitter (33% last year), and gets much of his power output from hard-hit line drives. The lumbering slugger carries a lifetime .333 BABIP, an indication of the solid contact he makes and his batted ball profile. Outfielders will have their hands full chasing down balls into the gap at spacious Marlins Park.
Thankfully, perhaps, Morse himself will not be running down the gappers struck by opposing batsmen. As I wrote in my free agent profile of Morse, the 32-year-old has played primarily in the outfield in recent seasons, but he is in truth a poor fit there. He does, however, have a background as a shortstop, so perhaps he may turn into a serviceable-to-average first baseman with an entire spring to devote to the position.
In that regard, it is perhaps not entirely surprising to see him stay in the National League, though surely the DH option would be a good way to find him additional plate appearances and some rest. Morse has had some injury issues, including nagging leg muscle ailments, and could benefit from at least shifting to the infield.
At $16MM, Morse falls a fair bit shy of the $22MM guarantee that I had predicted for him. That expectation seemed good after seeing the market’s early developments: Adam LaRoche got a $25MM guarantee despite his added age, though he is also more durable and defensively established. And significant cash was also thrown at Billy Butler ($30MM) and Kendrys Morales ($17MM). In spite of his risks, Morse looks to be a solid bet for Miami at the promised rate, particularly since the team will be able to install him at first rather than exposing him in the outfield.
Morse would make up only one of several notable additions for a Marlins team that obviously feels ready to contend. The speedy Dee Gordon has already been added on top of the order, while Mat Latos and possibly Dan Haren are slated for the rotation. The biggest commitment, of course, was made to in-house star Giancarlo Stanton.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the sides were nearing agreement on Twitter, with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reporting via Twitter that the deal was done. Rosenthal also tweeted the financial terms.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Marlins president David Samson rejected the recent comments of Pirates president Frank Coonelly regarding the team’s expectations for the Giancarlo Stanton contract, as Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel reports. He noted that the team has every expectation that Stanton will play out its full term, adding that Stanton’s camp suggested the opt-out.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- After reaching terms with Michael Morse to take the lion’s share of work at first, the Marlins are getting calls on displaced first baseman Garrett Jones, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. Though Jones is owed a relatively modest $5MM next year, the Fish may still need to eat some cash to get him off the books. The 33-year-old, left-handed-swinging Jones hit righties at a somewhat above-average clip, but struggled hard against same-handed pitching in limited exposure and was only an average producer in the aggregate.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters, including ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin (Twitter link), that the club is unlikely even to make a bid on Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang. The market for Kang remains hard to gauge as his posting clock ticks.
- The Mets are more likely to add southpaw relief help on minor league deals, Alderson added (also via Rubin, on Twitter). As things stand, New York can turn to Josh Edgin or, potentially, Rule 5 selection Sean Gilmartin for LOOGY work.
The latest salvo in Bryce Harper‘s grievance against the Nationals over his arbitration eligibility was fired yesterday when Harper failed to appear at NatsFest, the team’s annual fan convention. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including James Wagner of the Washington Post, “We’re disappointed he’s not here, but he chose not to be here because of the grievance.” Harper responded with a statement provided by his representatives and quoted by Wagner, “I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoy my experience with the fans, but was unable to attend this year’s event due to matters out of my control. I look forward to next year’s NatsFest.” The grievance hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in New York. If Harper wins his grievance, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.5MM arbitration award for the outfielder (as opposed to the $1.5MM base his contract stipulates for 2015), which will create a larger platform for future arbitration earnings.
In other news and notes involving the National League:
- Jordan Zimmermann reiterated his desire to sign an extension with the Nationals, but only at the right price, reports CSNWashington.com’s Chase Hughes. “If it’s a fair value, like I have said all along, I would gladly sign,” said Zimmermann. “But at the end of the day, it’s gotta be something that’s fair and if it’s not, then I’ll be moving on.“
- The Marlins are not willing to trade either Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart for a first baseman, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson also reports the Marlins have had more talks with Michael Morse in recent days and he represents the best realistic option to upgrade the position.
- The Marlins are listening to offers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi; but, while the Pirates view him as a “terrific young pitcher” and “someone we’ll keep looking at,” club president Frank Coonelly says they are not close to bringing him to Pittsburgh, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer.
- In a separate Singer tweet, Coonelly also downplays the return of Edinson Volquez. “Two years for $20MM not far off for Volquez,” Coonelly said. “He could get that. It probably won’t be here.“
- The Cubs have met recently with Colby Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in him, reports Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes identified the Cubs as a potential landing spot for Rasmus back in September while the Orioles and Royals have also been linked to the free agent center fielder.
- With the elevation of Jeff Bridich to general manager, Rockies manager Walt Weiss has more independence in running the team with the front office no longer maintaining an offfice in the clubhouse and is more involved in player personnel decisions, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.
Trading Rick Porcello to the Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier will likely cost the Tigers a draft pick, as MLive.com’s Chris Iott explains. Porcello and Cespedes are both free agents after the 2015 season, but the Tigers will not be able to extend Cespedes a qualifying offer. Cespedes’ will only have four years of service time, and so in order for his team to meet the requirement that he be a free agent after the season, he’ll have to be non-tendered. Non-tendered players can’t be extended qualifying offers. There are no such restrictions on Porcello (or most other pending free agents) being extended qualifying offers. So unless Porcello has a poor season (or re-signs with the Red Sox), the most likely outcome of the deal is that the Red Sox will get a draft pick as a result, and the Tigers will not. Here’s more from the American League.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik thinks he’ll be able to add an extra outfielder or two this offseason, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN tweets. “I feel confident we will get something done,” he says. “There may be more than one thing.” The Mariners have reportedly made Melky Cabrera a three-year offer, and they’ve also had serious trade talks with the White Sox about Dayan Viciedo. Justin Upton is another possibility.
- Another team looking for an outfielder is the Orioles, who seem more likely to sign one than to trade for one, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Delmon Young and Michael Morse are possibilities, and so is Cabrera, but only if he’s willing to settle for less than four or five years. The Orioles were also connected to Colby Rasmus last week. Kubatko notes that the O’s spoke to the Phillies about Marlon Byrd, but the Phillies offered a package that included Byrd and Ryan Howard. Howard, of course, is owed $60MM over the next two seasons, so taking on Howard’s contract just to get a good but not franchise-changing outfielder in Byrd would seem like a very tough sell for any team.
The latest from the NL West..
- The Giants are looking for left field help but they’re not focused on Michael Morse, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). SF loved what Morse did for them, but defense is a big concern for the club at the moment. Both the Orioles and Marlins are known to have interest in the 32-year-old (33 by Opening Day).
- A number of teams, mostly AL clubs, have inquired on Wilin Rosario and the Rangers appear to be the frontrunners, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Texas has relievers that interest the Rockies, including right-handers Roman Mendez, Jon Edwards, Shawn Tolleson, Phil Kleinand Spencer Patton, as well as lefty Robbie Ross Jr.
- If the Rockies and Angels get serious about a Josh Rutledge deal, Saunders writes that Colorado could target right-handers Vinnie Pestano and Fernando Salas. As of last night, the two teams were only talking and had yet to exchange proposals.
- The Padres are now among the teams that are kicking the tires on Mets pitchers Dillon Gee and/or Jonathon Niese, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
- The Dodgers were said to be among the finalists for Andrew Miller but it turns out they never even made an offer, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
The Rays have received some trade inquiries about Wil Myers, but do not seem apt to deal him, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. “The guy we saw last year was injured and didn’t really have a chance to demonstrate what he has,” says Rays executive Matt Silverman. “We look at him as a rookie of the year who really missed most of the season and expect him to be back in that form as a formidable bat in the middle of the lineup who also plays a pretty good outfield.” The Rays are widely expected to deal an outfielder this offseason, but that will likely be David DeJesus or Matt Joyce; as Topkin notes, trading the 2013 ROY-winning Myers after a down season would be selling low. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not want to be traded, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson writes. “Do I want to be a National [beyond 2015]? Yes,” says Desmond. “Do I think, at this particular moment, I will be, I don’t know.” Desmond and the Nationals have been unable to settle on a long-term extension, and he’s now one of several key Nats who’s eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- The Orioles still have interest in Delmon Young as a right-handed power source but could pursue Michael Morse (to whom they’ve previously been connected) as a backup plan, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets. Another possible option for them could be to acquire Allen Craig in a trade with the Red Sox. SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo adds (via Twitter), however, that the Orioles are not close to signing Young. Young and Morse are both poor defensive players, but they’re coming off strong offensive seasons — Young hit .302/.337/.442 in a part-time role with Baltimore in 2014, while Morse batted .279/.336/.475 in 482 at bats with the Giants. (Before that, the Orioles acquired Morse for their stretch run in 2013, and he collected 30 plate appearances for them.) With Nelson Cruz gone, the Orioles could have either player pick up at bats at DH, while occasionally playing an outfield corner. Morse would likely be the more expensive of the two, with MLBTR’s Jeff Todd predicting Morse will get a two-year, $22MM deal.
As the Marlins continue to look for upgrades at first base, the team is considering free agent Michael Morse and trade target Justin Morneau of the Rockies, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports on Twitter. Miami is looking for a left-handed bat, but Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates does not seem like a fit.
Morse, 33 in March, enjoyed a strong season with the bat in 2014 with the World Series Champion Giants, batting .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers in 482 plate appearances despite playing in the cavernous AT&T Park. Morse’s offensive contributions were 30 to 33 percent above league average, per park-adjust stats like OPS+ and wRC+. Late last month, the Marlins were said to have lukewarm interest in Morse, but things have apparently picked up since then. Last week we learned that the Orioles were showing strong interest in Morse.
Morneau, 33 (34 in May), enjoyed a bounce back year with the Rockies in 2014, batting .319/.364/.496 with 17 homers in 550 plate appearances. He offers not only solid production but a palatable contract as well. He’ll make $7.25MM next season (that’s including the extra $500K he earned by reaching 550 PA last season) along with a $750K buyout on a $9MM mutual option for 2016.
The Orioles are showing “strong interest” in free agent outfielder/first baseman/DH Mike Morse, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Baltimore has lost Nelson Cruz to the Mariners, watched free agent target Torii Hunter agree to terms with the Twins and could yet lose Nick Markakis to one of multiple teams showing interest in him.
As Nightengale notes, Morse could serve in a similar capacity to Cruz in 2014, spending a large chunk of time at DH while also filling in as a corner outfielder. The 32-year-old (33 in March) enjoyed a strong season with the bat in 2014 with the World Series Champion Giants, batting .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers in 482 plate appearances despite playing in the cavernous AT&T Park. Morse’s offensive contributions were 30 to 33 percent above league average, per park-adjust stats like OPS+ and wRC+.
The Orioles should be plenty familiar with Morse, as they were his final team before hitting the open market and signing with San Francisco. Baltimore acquired Morse in August of 2013 in a one-for-one swap that netted the Mariners’ Xavier Avery. Morse hit a woeful .103/.133/.103 in 30 plate appearances as he battled a serious wrist injury that eventually required offseason surgery.
When healthy, hitting hasn’t been a problem for Morse. In fact, over the past five seasons, Morse has a strong .279/.331/.485 triple-slash over his past five seasons. The problem with Morse is two-fold: he’s oft-injured and has significantly negative defensive value. Morse has played in just 565 games over the aforementioned five-season span. He’s hit the disabled list on four occasions due to calf, quadriceps, lat and oblique injuries, and he’s had plenty of minor injuries that set him back for a few days at a time.
Defensively, Morse has nearly 1700 innings in left field but a lifetime UZR/150 of -20.7 at that position to go along with a cumulative Defensive Runs Saved mark of -15. Those numbers were at -25.4 and -9, respectively, this past season with the Giants. He’s a more passable option at first base, but the Orioles have Chris Davis at that position and will likely give Steve Pearce some reps there as well.
Despite his injury woes, Morse’s bat does seem like a reasonable option to replace much of the offense lost with Cruz’s departure, and it will likely come at a fraction of the price. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd profiled Morse last month and pegged him for a two-year contract, and even if Morse surpasses that total, he should come at a significantly lower rate than the four-year, $58MM pact inked by Cruz.
The Marlins are “determined to upgrade” their first base position and have started looking into the trade market as a means of doing so, according to a report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Miami is looking to replace or, presumably, platoon with incumbent Garrett Jones.
Among the players as to whom the Marlins have inquired are Evan Gattis of the Braves and Chris Davis of the Orioles, per the report. The pair of 28-year-olds are in quite different situations, needless to say, but obviously each hold their own appeal. Davis is a left-handed hitter who is coming off a down year and looking to bolster his 50-home run resume in his final season before reaching free agency. Gattis, a catcher who could presumably shift over to first, will not even be eligible for arbitration until next season. He hits from the right side and thus would pair nicely with the left-handed bat of Jones, who remains under contract for one more season.
Miami would be required to part with a valued young arm to land either player, the report suggests. One possibility would be a deal involving well-regarded lefty Andrew Heaney, though of course the Fish are generally well-stocked in rotation prospects.
Miami reportedly made an offer to Adam LaRoche — the market’s best pure first baseman — before he signed with the White Sox. Missing on LaRoche left the market without much in the way of established, recently productive first baseman. Michael Morse remains a candidate to play that position, but the Marlins’ interest is “lukewarm,” per the report.
A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals. The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm. Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.
Here’s some more from around the NL Central…
- The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
- In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
- Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
- Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.