APRIL 21: Morse has been unconditionally released by the Pirates, tweets MLB.com’s Adam Berry. He’s now a free agent and can sign with any club.
APRIL 13: The Pirates announced today that they have selected the contract of right-hander A.J. Schugel and designated first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 25- and 40-man rosters.
The Pirates acquired Morse and cash considerations from the Dodgers last season in exchange for outfielder Jose Tabata and the remaining money on his contract, meaning they didn’t actually take on any additional salary in picking up Morse, who is owed $8MM in 2016 — the second season of a two-year, $16MM contract originally signed with the Marlins. The 34-year-old Morse has had one of the more interesting career arcs you’ll come across, going from third-round pick of the White Sox to failed prospect in Chicago/Seattle to breakout slugger at the age of 28 with the Nationals. Morse slugged 64 homers in 346 games for the 2010-12 Nats, posting an OPS+ of 131 before being sent back to Seattle in a trade. The 2013 season was another dreadful year for Morse, but he again revitalized his career with a huge season at the plate for the 2014 World Champion Giants. Upon signing his two-year deal with the Marlins, though, Morse’s offense again deteriorated, and he found himself involved in two salary dump trades last season.
Morse has batted a combined .247/.356/.351 in 90 plate appearances with the Pirates across the past two seasons. However, the offseason additions of Jason Rogers and David Freese left the club without a clear need for Morse, who had previously been penciled in as a right-handed platoon mate for first baseman John Jaso. It’s unlikely that any club will pick Morse up on release waivers due to his salary, so Morse is likely to clear and hit the open market, where he’ll be free to sign with any club. In that scenario, a new team would only be required to pay him the pro-rated league minimum (assuming they’re willing to give a 40-man roster spot).
As for Schugel, the 26-year-old was an offseason waiver claim for the Pirates, who subsequently outrighted him off the 40-man roster. Schugel struggled in nine innings with the D-backs last year — his first taste of Major League action — and has had some alarming troubles at the Triple-A level as well. Schugel has dominated Double-A but owns a 7.92 ERA in 128 1/3 Triple-A innings.