Today's entry into the trade candidates series is Michael Morse, who may represent the biggest question mark of all Mariner assets. Morse has been hot, cold, injured, and unreliable. Several weeks ago, the Mariners finally placed Morse on the disabled list with a quad injury after nearly a month of see-sawing between sitting, playing hurt, or being limited to first base. Morse is expected to start a rehab assignment any day now, but July is quickly fading away.
Why he's attractive
- When he's on, he's on. Morse is a streaky player, but one capable of doing sizable damage at the plate when healthy. He has monster power, and barring further injuries, could hit 15+ homers after the break. His last (and only) healthy season in 2011, he posted a .390 wOBA with Washington.
- He can play multiple positions, though not particularly well. Morse has experience in both corner outfield spots, as well as first base (and shortstop! Somebody let him play!)
- He's an expiring contract. Though the new CBA doesn't allow receiving teams to reap the draft pick benefits of a qualifying offer to contracts like Morse, he won't come at a very high cost or future risk. Morse is only owed ~3.3 million for the rest of the year.
Why he's not
- He's a terrible defender in the outfield. Morse has already racked up -8.4 UZR in the outfield this season, and he's never been below -17 UZR/150 in each of the past four seasons. It's devastating to his overall contributions. He's not an ideal fit for many. He should be a designated hitter or first baseman and he's right-handed, which isn't the most sought after commodity.
- He's injury prone. At first I thought that would be putting it lightly, but then I thought about Franklin Gutierrez and swallowed a quiet sob. Morse has dealt with two injuries this season, one of which was fluky (hit by pitch on his hand), and the other not so much (quad, drawn out). He spent most of June playing hurt or sitting out, and the Mariners mishandled his injury a bit, waiting too long to get him on the disabled list. Now, he'll most likely have only a few weeks to prove his health before a team could trade for him. He's simply unreliable.
- He hasn't been very good, even when he's played. Morse has never had good plate discipline, and this year continues that trend. Morse only has a .313 OBP and also strikes out in about 25% of his PA, additionally carrying a mediocre .332 wOBA. While Morse clearly has the potential to be a better hitter than he's been, he hasn't been it.
Possible interested teams
- New York Yankees. This is the obvious one, and the team he's connected to the most. The Yankees were often suggested as a match this offseason, and recent moves have done nothing to settle that. Thanks to injuries, the Yankees are running out Lyle Overbay and more recently Travis Ishikawa at first base. The Yankees could also use the help in corner outfield spots, thanks to Vernon Wells. If Mike Morse went to New York, he'd have a place to play every day. Morse would have a small outfield to roam, and Morse could rip his line drive homers over both the RF and LF walls. It's a perfect fit.
- San Francisco Giants. Every other team looks like a long shot compared to New York, but the Giants are desperate enough for right-handed power that they just acquired Jeff Francouer, so there's that. I'm not sure there's a spot for him to play every day in San Francisco, but he definitely fills a need. The Giants haven't been afraid to make big deadline splashes, even though this season has been a disappointment, they're not out of it yet.
Why a trade will happen
- The Mariners may not have much room for Morse in the second half if they hold onto Kendrys Morales. Justin Smoak and Morales will play every day, and then there's Raul Ibanez, Michael Saunders, and Dustin Ackley in the outfield. Assuming that the team will want the second half to evaluate Ackley and Saunders, one of Ibanez or Morse is out, or rotating. This may sort itself out when other trades occur, but there is a possible log jam here. If they don't have any interest in retaining Morse, he'll go.
Why it won't
- The return probably won't be very good. Thanks to Morse's disappointing season and injury concerns, the likeliness of some team stepping up to offer something of impact is unlikely.
- The Mariners could also make Morse a qualifying offer instead, though I believe he'd be more likely to accept one than Morales, and $13 million even for one year is probably an overpay for somebody like Morse.
- The Mariners still may want to extend Morse. In theory, it isn't the worst idea to extend a player while his value is lowest, and that's right now. Morse can't demand as much for an extension as he could three months ago. I have no idea what a player like Mike Morse would command this offseason, but he probably isn't worth it. The Mariners still need a long(er)-term 1B/DH solution for the next few years (even if Smoak keeps this up), and there's a pretty good chance it will be one of Morales or Morse.
Should the Mariners deal Morse? Try to extend him? Extend a qualifying offer? Poll below.
More from Lookout Landing:
- Mariners trade candidate: Oliver Perez
- Mariners trade candidate: Kendrys Morales
- Jeremy Bonderman designated for assignment
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