Analysis

Free Agent Pass or Play: Mike Morse

Could Morse bring his right-handed power to Philadelphia?

It’s time – we are now beyond the start of Free Agency at 12:01 AM November 5. We at Phillies Nation will take a look at a players, namely outfielders, catchers, starting pitchers, and relievers, who the Phillies may target this offseason. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.

Performance

From 2010 through 2012, Morse was a corner outfielder and part-time first baseman for the Washington Nationals, hitting .296/.345/.516  with 64 homers in that time span. Among players with at least 1,000 at-bats from ’10-’12, Morse ranked 28th in batting average, 82nd in OBP, 18th in slugging, and 23rd in OPS.

So what the heck happened last year?

Well, his year started pretty well: four homers in his first four games and nine homers in his first 30. After those 30 games, however, Morse hit just .199/.254/.30 with only four homers. Morse was plagued by nagging injuries, including a right hamstring.

Morse is a right-handed hitting power threat, though, with career splits of .284/.340/.479 against lefties versus a very similar .280/.332/.470 against righties.

Fit

With a line-up presumably line-up loaded with lefties, and a need for both starting and reserve righty outfield help, and possibly a right-handed first base option, Morse, who will be 32 on Opening Day 2014, is a solid fit. His age isn’t a big issue on a one or two year deal, but his history of nagging injuries may be.

Cost

Morse made $6.75 million last year in his final year of arbitration but may come cheaply to a team looking to take a low-cost, low-risk run at Morse. Morse is not among FanGraph’s 47 Top Free Agents or MLB Trade Rumors Top 50 Free Agents, my normal crutches for projections. To be honest, he could command anywhere from a non-guaranteed invite to Spring Training to a $1.5-$2 million one year deal.

Feasibility

So, Morse-to-Phillies was such a hot thing last season that the Phillies official home page had to address it. This year? Outside of a few odd blog posts, there is very little buzz about Morse yet alone “Morse to the Phillies”.

That was until last Wednesday, when Todd Zolecki wrote that the Phillies had already made several offers to free agents and speculated that Morse was among that group.

Verdict: Play

Morse, for me, is a modest play. I would use Morse more so as cheap insurance for Howard than as outfield help, but his history and series of nagging injuries give me a long pause. Morse has spent parts of nine seasons in the Majors but has only qualified for the batting title once. This one is a Play but with a strong “Buyer Beware”.

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