Michael Morse Rumors

Quick Hits: Marlins, Parra, Pederson

Ichiro Suzuki earned $400K in bonus money for reaching the 300-plate appearance threshold last week. As per the terms of Suzuki’s one-year, $2MM deal with the Marlins, Suzuki will earn an additional $400K for every 50 PA past 300, up to 600 plate appearances. Between Marcell Ozuna‘s demotion and injuries to Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, Suzuki has seen quite a bit more playing time than expected this season. With 332 PA after today’s action, Ichiro looks well on his way to adding at least another $800K to his 2015 salary, though he could lose some at-bats to younger outfielders once the rosters expand. Here’s more from around the league as we wrap up the weekend…

  • The Marlins are considering lowering the walls and bringing in the fences at Marlins Park, team president David Samson tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.  The stadium has finished at or near the bottom of the Park Factor home run rankings since opening in 2012.
  • The Reds placed Manny Parra on the DL today with bicep tendinitis in his left shoulder, the third time the southpaw has hit the DL this season.  John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter) thought that Parra would be a good trade candidate for the Reds, but that’s now an impossibility with him on the DL until at least September 4th.  Parra has been solid when healthy, posting a 3.24 ERA and 3-to-1 K/BB rate over 25 innings and pitching well against both left-handed and right-handed batters.  He drew some trade interest prior to the July 31 deadline though that buzz was scuttled by an earlier DL stint.
  • Joc Pederson has lost his job as the Dodgers‘ everyday center fielder, manager Don Mattingly told reporters (including ESPN’s Mark Saxon).  Enrique Hernandez will take over in center for the time being.  Pederson enjoyed a huge start to his rookie season but has been in a protracted slump since early June, hitting just .168/.328/.298 with six homers over his last 259 PA.
  • In July of this year, Mike Morse went from the Marlins to the Dodgers to the Pirates.  Morse admits that he was hoping for a return to the Giants, but he’s happy with how everything turned out, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes.  “If there was one place at the time I would have wanted to go, it was the Giants, not knowing that I’d get an opportunity here in Pittsburgh,” said Morse, who entered today with an .821 OPS over 25 PA as a Pirate. “Now that I see everything here, it’s awesome.”
  • Ian Kinsler wasn’t thrilled at the time of the deal that sent him from the Rangers to the Tigers, but he now tells Katie Strang of ESPN.com that the change of scenery worked out for the best.  “It’s a good place to be. There’s no hidden agenda,” Kinsler said. “The owner is all in, the [former] general manager, Dave Dombrowski, was all in. [Current] general manager Al [Avila] is the same way. There’s no difference between behind the scenes and in your face.”

NL Central Notes: Epstein, Morse, Jimenez, Brewers

Even with salaries for top executives continuing to rise, Theo Epstein is still a long-term fit for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago writes. “I am committed to the Cubs and could not be happier,” says Epstein, who is signed through 2016. “As for an extension, there are a lot more important things going on right now in the organization. We just haven’t gotten around to it. I am sure we will at an appropriate time.” Epstein’s Cubs are in good position to win a Wild Card spot, and he’s in the penultimate year of a five-year, $18.5MM contract. That’s a lot for an executive, but perhaps not for one with Epstein’s track record. Andrew Friedman’s contract with the Dodgers, for example, is almost twice as large, at $35MM.

Here’s more from the NL Central:

  • Michael Morse headed from the Marlins to the Dodgers and then on to Pittsburgh in an unusual series of transactions last month, but he’s happy to be with the Pirates, Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com writes. “The Dodgers did me a great favor. They told me they had to designate me, but they said they would find a good place for me,” says Morse. “I’m happy to get an opportunity with a team headed in the right direction.” The Dodgers designated Morse for assignment after taking on his contract in the Mat Latos – Alex WoodHector Olivera trade, then shipped him to Pittsburgh in exchange for Jose Tabata. Morse is off to a good start with the Bucs, reaching base in 11 of his first 24 plate appearances.
  • The Brewers view the trade of Neal Cotts to the Twins as an indirect swap for Cesar Jimenez, tweets Tom Haudricourt of MLB.com. Milwaukee claimed Jimenez from the Phillies about half a day before dealing Cotts to Minnesota. GM Doug Melvin pointed to pointed out that Jimenez, 30, has two additional years of club control. The Brewers will at least receive cash from the Twins if not a player (tweet). The two players are actually reasonably comparable in all ways except major league experience. In 429 and 2/3 innings, Cotts has a 3.96 ERA, 8.63 K/9, and 3.96 BB/9. Jimenez isn’t too far off those rates with a 4.15 ERA, 6.27 K/9, and 3.93 BB/9 in 84 and 2/3 innings.
  • Melvin also discussed the possibility of additional waiver trades, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. “My gut feeling is it’s probably tough,” says Melvin of further trading. Milwaukee has put about 20 players through waivers. In most cases, the claiming team doesn’t even engage in a trade discussion – they’re just blocking a deal to another club.

Rosenthal On Park, Astros, Brewers, Morse, Jays

Here’s the latest from Ken Rosenthal, via a video from FOX Sports:

  • Jung-Ho Kang‘s strong rookie season with the Pirates could drive up the market for fellow KBO slugger and former teammate Byung-Ho Park, who is likely to be posted this winter. Kang has been a bargain, hitting .287/.360/.444 while playing capably at third base and shortstop this season, all for an approximately $5MM posting fee and a four-year, $11MM deal. Park, who’s hit 95 home runs in the last two seasons, should make more.
  • Friday was an interesting night for both teams in the recent Carlos Gomez / Mike Fiers deal. Fiers, of course, threw a no-hitter for the Astros, while outfielder Domingo Santana homered in his first game with the Brewers.
  • Michael Morse, who went from the Marlins to the Dodgers to the Pirates in a whirlwind series of transactions last month, got a paycheck from the Dodgers even though he never played for them. (The Dodgers were obligated to pay him, of course, but it’s amusing to think about a player receiving a paycheck from a team he never played for.) He’ll also receive a game jersey from the Dodgers the next time they play the Bucs.
  • The Blue Jays‘ additions of Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere have greatly improved their defense, Rosenthal says. Justin Smoak is another key to the Jays’ defense — he uses his big frame to get to throws from across the infield that other first basemen might miss.


Dodgers, Braves, Marlins Complete 13-Player Trade

AUGUST 1: The Dodgers are paying just $500K of the remainder of Arroyo’s deal, Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles tweets. Arroyo is owed about $8MM, including his 2016 buyout, and it appears the Braves are paying almost all of that amount.

JULY 30: The Dodgers, Marlins and Braves have swung one of the most complex three-team trades in recent history. The “basic” structure of the deal (though there’s nothing basic about this move) is as follows: the Dodgers will receive right-hander Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse from the Marlins. They’ll also add top prospect Jose Peraza and pitchers Alex Wood, Bronson ArroyoJim Johnson and Luis Avilan from the Braves. Atlanta, in turn, will receive infielder Hector Olivera, lefty Paco Rodriguez and minor leaguer Zachary Bird from the Dodgers. The Braves are also picking up Miami’s Competitive Balance Round A pick in next year’s draft (No. 35 overall). The Marlins will come out of this deal with three minor league pitchers — Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham and Victor Araujo — plus the financial relief of shedding the remaining $14.3MM that is owed to Latos and Morse. Each team has announced the trade’s completion.

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Mat Latos is headed to the Dodgers.

In making this trade, the Dodgers bolster their rotation not only for the remainder of the 2015 season but also potentially through the 2019 campaign. Latos, who is earning $9.4MM in 2015 and has $3.6MM of that sum remaining on his contract, is a free agent at season’s end, but Wood can be controlled for four years beyond the current campaign.

While he’s battled injuries and struggled early in the season, Latos has increased his velocity and upped his results since returning from a DL stint (as noted by MLBTR’s Steve Adams when examining his trade candidacy). All told, the 27-year-old Latos owns a 4.48 ERA with 8.0 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 over 88 1/3 innings on the year. But ERA estimators view him more as a mid-3.00 ERA contributor, and that has shown up in his last seven starts, over which he’s allowed 15 earned runs in 45 2/3 frames with a 43:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Wood is perhaps the more intriguing name here for the Dodgers, though. The 2012 second-round pick was never vaunted as a Top 100 prospect, but he’s emerged as a reliable cog in the Braves’ rotation over the past few seasons. Though many have expressed long-term health concerns with Wood and his numbers are down in 2015, his overall body of work is nonetheless impressive. Wood has a lifetime 3.10 ERA in 368 2/3 big league innings with very strong averages of 8.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 to go along with a 46.5 percent ground-ball rate. Both Latos and Wood will join co-aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the Dodgers’ rotation, solidifying the starting five down the stretch. Those additions, however, demonstrate a different approach than many pundits expected, as L.A. was heavily rumored to be involved with the top names on the trade market.

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Alex Wood could be a long-term rotation piece for L.A.

In landing Johnson, the Dodgers are picking up a reliever that was serving as Atlanta’s closer and doing so quite well. Johnson led the AL in saves from 2012-13 before a down season in 2014. Atlanta snatched him up on a one-year, $1.6MM contract with enough incentives to carry the deal to $2.5MM if he maxes it out. He’s been an outstanding buy-low piece for the Braves and will carry a 2.25 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 60.8 percent ground-ball rate into the Dodger bullpen, where he’ll help set up for Kenley Jansen.

The 26-year-old Avilan gives the Dodgers another left-handed relief option to pair with J.P. Howell and Ian Thomas, though it’s debatable whether he’s a long-term improvement over Rodriguez, who heads to Atlanta in the deal. Avilan has a 3.58 ERA on the season with a 31-to-10 K/BB ratio (though two of the walks were intentional) in 37 2/3 innings. He’s upped his velocity this season and his strikeout rate as well, but Avilan’s previous good fortune in terms of homer-to-flyball ratio has dried up this season, and he’s near the league average (above it, in fact) in that regard for the first time in his career. Avilan hasn’t missed a ton of bats throughout his career but does have strong overall totals against left-handed hitters.

Morse doesn’t really fit on the Dodgers’ roster and was likely included as a means of offsetting some salary, so it’s possible his stay with the Dodgers will be brief, at best. Los Angeles designated Eric Stults for assignment immediately upon acquiring him from the Braves earlier this year and did so with Ryan Webb as well, so there’s certainly precedent for them to flex their financial muscle as a procedural necessity and simply cut ties with the unwanted or superfluous players in a deal.

Arroyo serves as a second example of the Dodgers flexing their financial muscle. The veteran right-hander signed a two-year deal with the D-Backs prior to the 2014 season but underwent Tommy John surgery last summer and hasn’t pitched this season. Arizona unloaded his contract in a prior trade with the Braves, and that money will now go to the Dodgers, bringing the total amount of cash they’re eating in this deal to roughly $43.5MM. It’s possible, at least, that Arroyo could pitch at the back of the L.A. rotation down the stretch.

Dealing Peraza away was probably a tough pill to swallow for the Braves, who have long lauded him as one of their top prospects. The 21-year-old entered the season as a consensus Top 50 prospect in the game, and though his offensive numbers are down somewhat, that’s not necessarily a red flag for someone playing at the minors’ top level at the age of 21. That’s not to say, of course, that Peraza’s numbers are poor; he’s hitting .295/.319/.380 this season. Peraza ranks as the game’s No. 26 prospect on the midseason Top 50 from Baseball America and No. 30 on MLB.com’s midseason update to their own Top 100 prospect list. Peraza began his career as a shortstop and eventually moved to second base, but it’s not certain where the Dodgers project him in the future. He has little power but draws rave reviews for his speed and glove, and he’s swiped 149 bases over his past 310 minor league contests. I feel it should be noted that Peraza, too, could be a piece that the Dodgers will consider dealing, as they’re reportedly reluctant to part with their own top prospects: Corey Seager and Julio Urias.

As for the Braves, they’ll finally land a player they pursued extensively this offseason in the form of Olivera. Atlanta simply couldn’t match the Dodgers’ enormous $62.5MM offer to the 30-year-old infielder, but $28MM of that came in the form of a signing bonus that is to be paid in three installments. The Dodgers will pay the final two installments of Olivera’s signing bonus, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That means the Braves are essentially taking on Olivera on a six-year, $32.5MM contract that began this season. He’s earning $2MM in 2015, of which about $754K remains, so their total financial commitment to him will be about $31.25MM over the course of five and a half years. That’s a much more palatable obligation for the Braves (who have notably shed significant payroll from their books by moving Melvin Upton Jr. and Craig Kimbrel since Olivera signed.)

Olivera, a right-handed hitting third baseman/second baseman, was said at the time he signed to be a safe bet to post strong average and OBP marks due to his pure hitting abilities and a keen eye at the plate. The question was how much power he’d show in the Majors, but some felt that he could be a 20-homer bat on a yearly basis. He’s looked sharp to this point in the minors, hitting .348/.392/.493 across three levels and reaching Triple-A. The Braves undoubtedly consider him to be a major component of their long-term future in the infield, though the specific position he’ll play is yet an unknown.

In Rodriguez, they’ll pick up a left-handed reliever who could be out for the season but has pitched well when healthy. Rodriguez had surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow in late June — a procedure that will sideline him for eight to 10 weeks. However, the former second-round pick has been excellent while on the mound. He was the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the Majors, debuting the same year he was drafted, and he sports a lifetime 2.53 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.

The 21-year-old Bird has largely unimpressive numbers in the minors — a 4.74 ERA in 351 minor league innings — but MLB.com rated him 15th among L.A. farmhands. Per their scouting report, he made big strides with his velocity late in 2014 and has gone from a low-90s heater to a mid-90s offering that “threatens triple digits” at times. He still needs to get a better feel for his offspeed pitches and has a long ways to go as a slider, they add.

With all that said, we’re at last to the Marlins’ portion of the trade, which looks meager. Of the three names in question, only Brigham ranks among L.A.’s top 30 prospects, per MLB.com, who rank him 28th. Brigham had Tommy John surgery in college in 2012 and missed all of 2013 before pitching himself into the fourth round, their scouting report notes. He’s 90-94 mph with his fastball and has shown shaky control, though some of that can be attributed to the surgery. He’s punched out 75 hitters in 75 innings this year but has also walked 38 and has a 5.52 ERA.

Guzman is a 20-year-old starter pitching at the Class A level who has notched a 3.90 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9 in 83 innings this year. The 22-year-old Araujo is in his second stint with Class-A Advanced and hasn’t found very favorable results. He’s missed plenty of bats (55 strikeouts in 50 innings) with solid control (14 walks) but has been hittable and ultimately surrendered a 5.40 ERA this season.

The Marlins had a number of ways they could go in terms of dealing Latos, but it seems they either prioritized shedding the Morse contract or simply didn’t find that teams were willing to offer much in return given his rental status, health concerns and early struggles. In the end, while this trade started off being termed the “Mat Latos trade,” it will be more remembered as a deal that netted the Braves their second baseman or third baseman of the future in exchange for a promising young arm and one of their top prospects.

Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported (on Twitter) that Latos and Morse were headed to the Dodgers. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (Twitter link) and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (Twitter link) reported the financial components for Miami/L.A. and the inclusion of the Marlins’ draft pick. Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweeted that a third team was potentially being brought in. Frisaro reported the prospects going to Miami. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported the Braves’ inclusion (via Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post said the Braves would get a young starter (Twitter links), and Rosenthal tweeted that Wood was the pitcher in question. Bowden tweeted Johnson’s inclusion. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman first suggested Peraza’s name (on Twitter) and Sherman confirmed his inclusion (via Twitter). Bowman also tweeted that Olivera was in the deal, and Bowden tweeted that Avilan was as well. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweeted that Bird was headed to Atlanta. Bowman added that Rodriguez was going to the Braves. Passan added the final wrinkle: Arroyo’s inclusion (Twitter links).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Pirates, Dodgers Swap Jose Tabata, Michael Morse

The Pirates have announced that they’ve acquired Michael Morse and cash from the Dodgers for outfielder Jose Tabata. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com was the first to tweet that a deal had been struck.

The Dodgers recently acquired Morse in the 13-player Mat Latos / Hector Olivera deal, although Morse was seemingly included in the deal mostly so that the Marlins could shed his salary. He’s making $7MM this year and $8MM next, and is in the midst of a bad season, batting .213/.276/.313, a very poor line, particularly given that he provides little defensive value. Nonetheless, he’s right-handed and hit well in 2014, and the Pirates have struggled to find right-handed hitting depth, given injuries to Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Corey Hart, along with Hart’s own poor performance. The Pirates also might hope that Morse can help the left-handed Pedro Alvarez at first base.

Tabata’s is surely headed the Dodgers’ way largely to offset Morse’s salary. The Pirates had already repeatedly outrighted the disappointing Tabata, who has about $6.75MM remaining on the long-term deal he signed with the Bucs in 2011. He’s spent most of the season with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he’s batted .291/.364/.345 in 165 plate appearances. Nonetheless, he’s young enough (with a listed age of 26) and has enough on-base ability that he might be able to help someone in a bench role. He will not need to be added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.


Cafardo On Mariners, Pirates, Zobrist

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looked at five teams that need to make a move before the trade deadline.  That list includes the Mets, who have pitching they can trade for hitting.  The most obvious fit for them would be Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but Cafardo also mentions teammate Carlos Gonzalez as well as A’s hitters Josh Reddick and Steven Vogt.  As always, Cafardo’s entire column is worth a read, but we also compiled a handful of highlights below..

  • The Mariners continue to consider Phillies outfielder Ben Revere as the deadline approaches, Cafardo hears from a major league source.  The M’s need a leadoff hitter and while his slash of .294/.335/.377 doesn’t make him the ideal guy for that, Revere does have 21 steals on the year.  Earlier today we learned that the Pirates also have their eye on Revere.  However, it’s worth noting that Revere is also dealing with hamstring issues at the moment and that could delay a possible trade.
  • The Pirates recently watched Marlins right-hander Dan Haren pitch at Fenway Park.  Haren has been mentioned quite a bit as a trade candidate and while he made demands in the offseason, he has now settled into the fact that he might get moved.
  • Speaking of the Marlins, former closer Steve Cishek is drawing interest despite his difficult season and mechanical issues. The Twins, Tigers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and other clubs have been keeping an eye on the 29-year-old.
  • Now that Marlins first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse is healthy once again, Cafardo wonders if teams like the Mets, Pirates, Nationals, and Royals could come calling.  A team acquiring Morse would have to pay the rest of his $7.5MM salary for 2015 and his $8.5MM salary next season, but Cafardo hears that he is in fact being scouted by clubs. Recently, MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth ran down the Marlins’ possible trade chips, including Haren and Cishek.
  • The Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Nationals are among the teams with interest in A’s outfielder/infielder Ben Zobrist.  Zobrist has played in left field, second base, and right field this season and Cafardo notes that he could also play third base if needed, despite having only four career games there.
  • One AL exec tells Cafardo that he thinks the Tigers could listen on David Price.  “It bears watching,” said the executive. “I don’t think he’s going back there. The Tigers need to revamp their farm system, so it’s not cut and dried that they won’t entertain a package for him.” Cafardo, however, doesn’t see Price going anywhere.  He envisions Detroit possibly adding a starter.

NL East Notes: Amaro, Span, Morse, Latos

GM Ruben Amaro’s recent declaration that Chase Utley might not be the Phillies‘ everyday second baseman when he returns from injury is a tough one for fans to take, David Murphy of the Daily News writes. For those unfamiliar with Amaro’s comments, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal provided a good summary earlier this week. “Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman,” Amaro told reporters, including CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. “I would assume that Cesar would be our second baseman.” After getting off to a poor start this season, Utley is currently on the DL with ankle inflammation, and Hernandez has performed well in his absence, but Amaro’s remarks understandably haven’t sat well with Phillies fans, who don’t want to see a franchise icon pushed off the stage. The core of the problem, as Murphy sees it, is that Phillies fans have to endure the marginalizations or departures of players who were key to the Phillies’ run of successful seasons several years back, while the team’s front office can continue to use that same run of successful seasons to justify its own continued employment. Rosenthal, meanwhile, wonders whether Amaro — who had already appeared to be a lame duck — might be hastening his departure with his tone deaf comments. Here’s more from the NL East.

  • The Nationals have placed outfielder Denard Span on the disabled list, Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider writes. Span, who had not played since Sunday, has been dealing with back tightness. The injury means the Nationals are down yet another position player. They currently also have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman on the DL.
  • The Giants have had at least a bit of interest in acquiring Michael Morse from the Marlins, but the Giants would need to take on a significant portion of the approximately $11MM remaining on Morse’s contract for the Marlins to consider the deal, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes (scroll down). The Marlins would seem to have somewhat less use for the right-handed Morse with today’s addition of fellow righty corner infielder Casey McGehee, and Justin Bour has taken over the bulk of the Marlins’ playing time at first base anyway. The Giants surely have fond memories of Morse from his solid performance with their 2014 World Series team, but Morse has hit a disastrous .210/.273/.304 with his usual poor defense in 2015, so it’s doubtful the Giants would be willing to take on much salary to acquire him. Morse would serve as a right-handed bench option in San Francisco.
  • The Marlins have also received “several” calls regarding starting pitcher Mat Latos, Jackson writes. That’s not surprising — Latos is a free agent at the end of the season, and as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently noted, Latos’ velocity has returned lately, seemingly making him a more attractive trade candidate than his overall numbers suggest he should be.

NL East Notes: Gillick, Gee, Hill, Marlins

Cole Hamels gave a thumbs-up following a bullpen session this morning, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports, so the ace southpaw is on pace to pitch on Wednesday afternoon against the Yankees.  Hamels missed his last start due to a tight hamstring, and while the injury wasn’t thought to be serious, any concerns about Hamels’ health would impact his trade value.  Here’s some more from the NL East…

  • Phillies president Pat Gillick told reporters (including Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer) that the team will “probably” hire a new club president “somewhere in the not-too-distant future.”  Gillick wouldn’t immediately step aside for his replacement, as the plan is to let the new president spend the rest of the season evaluating the roster and club personnel before fully taking over in October.  The Phillies face an extensive rebuild, and Gillick admitted that it might take longer than 2017 or 2018 to return to contention, as he estimated when he stepped into the interim role.
  • The future of GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg are two of the top questions facing the new Phillies president, though Gillick reiterated his support for both men, saying they’re going a “good job” despite the difficulties on the field.
  • “Teams weren’t exactly knocking on the door” to acquire Dillon Gee when the Mets designated righty for assignment, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets.  The Mets put Gee on outright waivers today and plan to send him to Triple-A if he goes unclaimed by Tuesday.
  • The Marlins have a logjam brewing in their rotation but president of baseball operations Michael Hill says he won’t be trading from the team’s strength to alleviate it.  “We are fortunate we have some players who are flexible, that we can move to the bullpen,” Hill said, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. “We have some young players who may have to go back (to the minors).”
  • Hill also shrugged off the notion that the Marlins might look to trade veterans such as Martin Prado and Michael Morse before the deadline.  “Any pieces that are under control aren’t even considerations to do anything.  We aren’t building this team for 2015. We’re building this for ’15 and ’16 and ’17. We’re trying to build a perennial contender,” Hill said.
  • In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, the Braves signed first-rounder Mike Soroka, and pundits overwhelmingly felt the Braves got the better of their controversial trade with the Diamondbacks that brought Touki Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo to Atlanta.

Orioles Notes: Young, Morse, Matusz, Suzuki

The Orioles are still hunting for outfield help, and Delmon Young is “absolutely” still in play, agent Joel Wolfe tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Wolfe says that all discussions with the O’s have been “very positive,” though Kubatko writes that Young’s preference is a multiyear deal, whereas the Orioles are more comfortable signing Young to a one-year deal, perhaps with an option.

Here’s some more from Baltimore…

  • The Orioles were also wary about committing multiple years to Michael Morse, Kubatko notes.  The O’s had “strong interest” in Morse earlier in the offseason but the veteran found a multiyear deal elsewhere, signing a two-year/$16MM contract with the Marlins.
  • In another Kubatko piece, he writes that the acquisition of left-hander Wesley Wright doesn’t necessarily mean the O’s will look to move Brian Matusz since Matusz is more of a lefty specialist.  This said, Baltimore does seemingly have a surplus of bullpen arms that could be used as trade bait, and Kubatko speculates that the Padres (with their surplus of outfielders) could be a fit as a trade partner.
  • The Orioles have given some consideration to signing Ichiro Suzuki, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
  • Chris Davis has received permission from Major League Baseball to take Adderall next season, Buck Showalter told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun).  Davis was issued a 25-game suspension last year for his unauthorized use of Adderall, and he still has one game remaining on his punishment.
  • The Orioles will interview Scott Coolbaugh about their vacant hitting coach position, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Coolbaugh was the Rangers’ hitting coach from 2011-12 and is currently their minor league hitting coordinator.

Marlins Sign Michael Morse

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.

MLB: NLCS-St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants

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.