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Mariners Botch Handling of First Base Injuries

Mike Morse, Justin Smoak, and Kendrys Morales all battled injuries in June. But as Morse is finally placed on the disabled list, how could the Mariners have handled things better?

it's the mike morse show!
it's the mike morse show!
Harry How

On Saturday, Michael Morse went on the 15-day disabled list for the Mariners with a quad injury that's been bothering him for nearly a month. He's just now hitting the disabled list in all sincerity, for Franklin Gutierrez, who promptly hit a home run and then subsequently shattered within 24 hours. There were injuries that kept the Mariners from placing Morse on the disabled list earlier, thanks to Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak. Still, it's taken the Mariners nearly four weeks to make the move, so let's retrace the steps here.

  • May 25: Justin Smoak suffers oblique injury
  • May 28: Mike Morse leaves with right quad injury
  • May 29: Smoak pinch hits after sitting since May 25
  • June 2: Smoak placed on DL, retroactive to May 30th due to pinch hitting appearance
  • June 6: Morse returns after 9 day absence, clearly hobbled by injuries, can't play OF
  • June 10: Kendrys Morales tweaks back, out of lineup
  • June 12: Morse sits, injury flares up
  • June 14: Morales returns
  • June 18: Smoak returns from DL
  • June 22: Morse placed on 15-day DL

Morse has been limited to just 10 starts since May 28th, but finally hit the disabled list this weekend. Clearly, the M's felt they couldn't lose him because of the Smoak injury, but this was a miscalculation on their part. Since Morales was healthy at the time of the Smoak and Morse injuries, the Mariners should have placed Mike Morse on the disabled list at the time of his injury, May 28th. This would have left him eligible to return June 12th, in the middle of the Morales injury. If the Mariners wouldn't have burned several days of Justin Smoak on a pinch hitting appearance, he would have been nearly ready to return at that time as well, or at the very least been able to leave a rehab assignment early to fill in for Morales.

By the time Morse reappears, it will be the middle of July, and he'll have started 10 games from May 28th to at least July 8th.

This is all obvious hindsight, as the Mariners couldn't predict that Morales would need a few games off. 1B isn't exactly a difficult position to fill if there's an emergency (Ibanez), and the Mariners sat on their hands with Morse, waiting. Now by the time Morse reappears, it will be the middle of July, and he'll have started 10 games from May 28th to at least July 8th. That's without a rehab assignment, so he could be be out even longer.

Mike Morse is injury prone. He's suffered too many injuries during his career to ignore this, and has often seen drops in performance while battling them. It's part of the package you receive when you trade for a guy like Mike Morse, and the Mariners need to take this into account. It isn't good for anybody to have him playing at as a shell of what he can be. By tip toeing around this injury, when it's all said and done the Mariners could lose 5+ weeks of Morse instead of the 2-3 weeks they should have, insuring he comes back at full strength. Morse was out for 9 days before he returned in the first place. Diagnosing quad and hamstring issues is not an exact science and requires a great deal of guess work, but given Morse's career long reputation for lingering injuries, at the very least a retroactive DL stint would have been the right call. This chain of events aren't something a forward thinking organization would do. The Mariners are scattered, rushing, scrambling. This, paired with the baffling series of moves at catcher, are more signs of an organization that is simply lost.

I can rationalize why the Mariners did what they did, given what happened to Justin Smoak. But a player like Smoak shouldn't be dictating anybody's transactions, especially with somebody like Morse. Morse is being counted on as one of the team's biggest offensive contributors in addition to one of their most attractive trading chips. Now, Morse will return from the disabled list with just a few weeks to prove his trade value before the July 31st deadline. This series of botched events from the Mariners is a dagger to Morse's trade value. As teams grow more and more desperate for adding a piece, the trade deadline becomes an exercise in "what have you done for me lately?"

Now, when July 31st rolls around, that question will be answered with an injury-plagued month with mediocre production and a fresh disabled list stint. Swift action on Morse's injury would have given him the correct amount of recovery time to re-establish his value in the team's most important month of the summer.