Free Agent Pass or Play: Mike Morse – Phillies Nation

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.


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.


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.


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.


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”.



  1. Corey

    November 9, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Isn’t Mike Morse essentially an older, less durable, more expensive Darin Ruf, who happens to already be on our 40 man? I’d go with a pass on this one.

  2. Bart Shart

    November 9, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Morse is a tepid PLAY. Nothing to get real excited about.

  3. Lefty

    November 9, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Agree on all counts. If there is one thing I really like about Morse, it’s that he’s apparently a very good team guy. Yes the SABR-metrics folks are running to their bathrooms to puke right now, but I’m old school enough to think this kind of thing is important.

    I think for all reasons mentioned in the posting and him being a good presence type, I’d play.

    • hk

      November 10, 2013 at 7:55 am


      Many people said that Michael Young was also a good team guy. However, he cost the Phils $6.2M to $7.2M (depending upon whether the Phils or Dodgers paid for Young’s month in LA) for 5/6 of a season of below replacement level performance and I don’t even know whether or not he was good in the clubhouse. I’m all for good clubhouse guys, but only when they can be reasonably expected to provide value on the field.

      • Lefty

        November 10, 2013 at 9:32 am

        hk, I didn’t say all the stats and facts should be forsaken because he’s a good presence to have on a team. I said “for all the reasons mentioned in the posting and…. I’d play”. I didn’t write the positing, but I agree with it. And you are right, it’s clear that 2011 was an outlier, that type season is not likely to happen again. It was also not likely that Raul Ibanez would hit 2 more home runs than Dominic Brown last season, but he did.

        Furthermore- If Ian is right that “he could command anywhere from a non-guaranteed invite to Spring Training to a $1.5-$2 million one year deal.” then clearly we’re not talking about a Michael Young type of deal. At that type of salary structure, for me it’s a play all the way.

      • wbramh

        November 10, 2013 at 9:35 am

        Point well taken.

        I was among those people who sold themselves on Young based in part on clubhouse attitude. To be fair I felt there was a sluggish air on the team that could have easily turned negative. That said, I was also sold on the belief that neither Asche or Franco was ready to bring up to the parent club and the team needed a 1-year swing guy… Wrong!

        I don’t buy it, anymore. What I believe is that I guy with natural talent rises to the occasion and excels sooner by getting his “seasoning” against better competition. It’s why C students from top high schools tend to be C students in average colleges while A students in poor high schools tend to be remain A students at tough colleges.

        There are too many 21 and 22-year-old stars in MLB for me to buy the idea that every promising kid has to be 25-years-old before he’s “ready” for the Bigs. Yeah, I’m sure there are many late bloomers but either the Phils have most of them or they’re doing something wrong in their system. Dom Brown, while still not a good fielder, improved once he got to the majors. My bet is that he never would have improved a lick had he stayed down on the farm. The same for Darin Ruf. We may be seeing the same growth out of Cody Asche. In the meantime, young Maikel Franco is languishing in the system at a time when he’s already good enough to drive in more RBIs than any other infielder other than a healthy Howard. Does anyone actually believe Yasiel Puig will be sent down by the Dodgers to get more of the training he could use?

        Ashburn was a star at 21 – period. Ennis was 21, too. In fact, Ennis’s rookie numbers would have made him the second highest RBI producer on the 2013 team (and highest batting average) and he really didn’t break out as a star until the advanced age of 23. Roberts came up at 21 and was a star by 23. Callison was called up at19 (with the Cubs) and became a full-time player with the Phils by 21. Schmidt came up at 22 and was a star by 23. Bowa was a “late bloomer” at 24.Flash forward to the 21st century and Howard and Utley were starting at age 24.

        Seems careers on this team are now getting started later than ever – and based on technical abilities, today’s graduates appear to be less prepared than ever.

        As always, I invite comment.

      • schmenkman

        November 10, 2013 at 6:43 pm

        @wbramh, “Flash forward to the 21st century and Howard and Utley were starting at age 24.”

        It’s a common complaint, but I think it’s overstated, at least recently.

        Phillies 23 and under, back to 2006: Brown, Galvis, Asche, Floyd, Mathieson, Hamels, Kendrick, Worley, Pettibone, Bastardo, Aumont, De Fratus

        Utley and Howard were blocked, rightly or wrongly, but at 23 Ruf was a first baseman who wasn’t exactly blowing away A and A+ pitching. And Chooch at 23 was struggling in Clearwater with a .592 OPS.

        You say “There are too many 21 and 22-year-old stars in MLB for me to buy the idea that every promising kid has to be 25-years-old before he’s “ready” for the Bigs.”

        How many 21 and 22-year old stars are in MLB can you find who didn’t prove themselves at lower levels before being called up? Very few, I would guess.

        At 22 Utley had a .746 OPS in high A Clearwater.
        At 22 Howard was a first baseman with a .828 OPS in low-A Lakewood. Not exactly lighting anything on fire.

        Can you name any 22 year old Phillies prospects who had shown enough at AA and above to be given a major league starting job?

      • wbramh

        November 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm

        Schmenk, my larger point was that these players cease to get any better while languishing in the minors. I picked stars to make the point that 5 years in the minors does not make the player.

        But you’re right, I unfairly discounted a few recent players who have skirted staying with the parent club before reaching the age of 25. Obviously, the bigger problem is the state of their farm system no matter the age of the player.

      • schmenkman

        November 10, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        wbramh, I think you’d agree that even if it’s true that players stop developing and don’t get better while in the minors, that’s no reason to call them up before they can contribute at the major league level.

      • wbramh

        November 11, 2013 at 2:04 am

        Schmenk: What you’re saying makes sense except in the alternate universe that the Phils were playing in this year which featured an endless line of A-ball quality players serving stints with the parent club You also have to go with what you got and too often it was MiniMart or McDonald or Wells or Bernadina pinch hitting and Durbin, or Ramirez or Valdes or Cloyd pitching… Or worse, Wells and McDonald pitching!

        At times I thought I was watching scab junior college players suiting up during a strike season.

      • schmenkman

        November 11, 2013 at 3:23 am

        Taking Martinez/Galvis as an example, Martinez was used instead of Galvis so that Galvis could play regularly and not sit on the bench for 95% of the time.

        As for D.Young/Ruf, Ruf hadn’t played the outfield, and when he did in spring training he looked lost. DY turned out to not be much better, but I can understand why they made that choice.

      • wbramh

        November 11, 2013 at 8:56 am

        I understand the logic, Schmenck.
        My question is why wasn’t Martinez sitting on a bench along the Seine?
        (and don’t tell me it’s because Summer in Paris is peak season)

        As for Young v Ruf, yes for the reasons you’ve supplied,
        But I think the comparison at the time should have been Young v Mayberry and Young was no clear upgrade over what the team already had. Of course, Mayberry ended up dropping another notch, too but by then they could have stuck Ruf in right – or Hernandez if he was available and never wasted time and $700,000 on Delmon.

        That money would have been better spent paying you to introduce management to the world of sabermetrics… I’m serious.

        Likewise, I still find it hard to believe that the acquisition of Michael Young was necessary. I doubt that Asche’s extra few months in the minors couldn’t have had more value to him and the team had he been brought up in April, especially if my theory about rising to the level of competition is correct.

  4. Hogey's Role

    November 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I play, offer him one year 5 million with a second year option at 10 million that’s attainable…. Morse has some big pop from the right side which we need and he can play a corner outfield spot, which we also need… Plus if we sign morse it won’t cost a number two pick, of course we will probably lose that Pick to another free agent anyhow

    • Lefty

      November 9, 2013 at 11:28 am

      You know what wouldn’t surprise me,- if the Nats tried to get him to come back. I think they missed him last year.

      • Hogey's Role

        November 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm

        I agree with that lefty, I also agree with what you said above about a good clubhouse presence, it is important and it’s a big intangible that’s almost always overlooked and undervalued

  5. bacardipr

    November 9, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Possible play on a 1 year deal.

  6. hk

    November 9, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Pass, pass, pass. This guy has had one outlier season in which, despite his poor defense, he hit so well that he was a valuable player. During the rest of his career, he’s basically been Delmon Young, a hitter living off of that one great year while being so poor defensively and on the base paths that he hurts his team more than he helps it.

  7. wbramh

    November 9, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Another candidate to move the team from bad to mediocre.

  8. Betasigmadeltashag

    November 10, 2013 at 2:26 am

    I have to agree pass pass. As much as they need a RH outfielder with some pop to sacrifice every other aspect of the game. 3 years ago maybe you could hide his deficiencies but not on this team

  9. Ryne Duren

    November 10, 2013 at 7:11 am


  10. Lefty

    November 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

    I hope you folks read the part about how this guy would cost little to nothing. I get that he’s not going to set the world on fire, but why not take a chance on this guy? There is so little risk. The F.O.’s actions the last few years suggest to me that they really want to stay under the L.T. threshold and begin a slow rebuild. If true, and they don’t really want to grant huge contracts to the the likes of Beltran, Choo, Granderson, Ellsbury etc.- then why not Morse on a cheap deal?

    Do we really want them spending more money on being a 4th place team? While the Mets, Nats and Marlins and Braves continue to develop and bring up exciting young talent?

    Let this guy be part of a bridge to a renewed effort to build back a strong farm system instead of relinquishing the rights to draft picks and and good prospects. IMO- Please, enough with the big spending.

  11. wbramh

    November 10, 2013 at 10:55 am

    “I hope you folks read the part about how this guy would cost little to nothing.”

    Malaria is free.

    Okay, that may not be fair but I’d sooner trust St. Louis, Boston or Oakland to find 4 or 5 (or 7 in the case of the Sox) overachievers to flesh out their club than rely on RAJ and his scouts to make similar smart picks. If I thought this management team had the same capability to build a 1993 type of club I wouldn’t hesitate to endorse the “bargain” retreads on their list.

    This is the same management team that brought in the Youngs, C. Wells, Bernadina, etc. and went through no less than 25 pitchers (about 20 of whom were little league quality)… and couldn’t seem to shake their apparently incurable case of MiniMart Simplex.

    You might be right about taking a chance on a Morse, but like Boston, this team needs no less than seven really good overachieving and underpriced bets to pull off a turnaround . They’re more likely to settle for the cheapest two Delmon Youngs in FA – likely a league average right fielder and some 4.8 ERA pitcher coming off Tommy John who tore up the league 3 years ago before he tore up his arm.

    The day RAJ said the team had to be careful with spending money because attendance was down was the day I realized he had no idea why attendance was down in the first place.

    • Lefty

      November 10, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Wbramh- you sir, are one of my most respected commenters here at PN. I always enjoy reading your observations.

      So let me try to understand your rationalization on this one.

      “If I thought this management team had the same capability to build a 1993 type of club I wouldn’t hesitate to endorse the “bargain” retreads on their list.”

      -I get that, lack of trust based on track record, completely understandable.

      “You might be right about taking a chance on a Morse, but like Boston, this team needs no less than seven really good overachieving and underpriced bets to pull off a turnaround.”

      I don’t want a Boston style turnaround, they don’t have the horses in the farm to do that. I don’t want them to try a quick fix, I thought I made that clear. To repeat, I see this guy as an inexpensive part of a bridge to the future.

      “The day RAJ said the team had to be careful with spending money because attendance was down was the day I realized he had no idea why attendance was down in the first place. ”

      Well, that’s a totally stupid statement by RA Jr., if he made it. I just don’t recall reading it, might have missed it, been busy. However it is the way that most businesses go when they feel the pinch of slower sales, they cut spending. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the right thing to do, it’s just what most do.

      To sum up what I think you are saying-
      This management team is incapable of implementing the right strategy, so they should not try to do so. Isn’t that’s like saying if you’re not good at driving in your own lane on I-95, you should go against traffic instead- ?? smh.
      IMO- Whether your good at it or not, you still stick with good strategy.

      And the strangest part is that further up the page you commented that they should work with the homegrown talent and bring them up even sooner. My friend, I think we are sort of on the same track here, but you have me a little confused. If they spend big, that usually retards the age of prospects getting to the bigs, no? If they go after guys like Morse instead, while slowly bringing the Hernandez’, Galvis’, Franco’s, Rupp’s and Asche’s of the world up, that would be more in line with your thinking right?

      Sorry wbramh, but I don’t get it- do you want them to bring guys up, or spend like drunken sailors?

      Lastly, just as I told someone last week in a comment about Ryan Howard,-
      Until someone replaces them- this is OUR management team. If last year didn’t prompt any firings, I doubt you’ll see any now. These are the guys making the decisions, we all have to hope that they are learning, and will do a better job in the future. Because as Phillies fans not on the inside, hope is all we’ve got.

      • hk

        November 10, 2013 at 4:56 pm


        Do you know who else cost little? Delmon Young and Laynce Nix and Chad Durbin and….. Even if the cost is low in dollars, that does not account for the opportunity cost of giving a roster spot and playing time to a player who has been below replacement level with the exception of the season that we both agree was an outlier. I am tired of seeing this team give playing time to players like the aforementioned ones. The front office should allow Ruf to play whatever role they would otherwise sign Morse to fill and use their off-season to add good players.

      • wbramh

        November 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm

        Thanks for the compliment. I love your posts too, Lefty.

        As for that quote from Ruben, here it is:

        “…writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the club must spend big in free agency. Gelb says the club has ample room to increase spending above the $189MM luxury tax line if it wants, though GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has expressed hesitation. ‘Obviously, we had a lot less people coming to the ballpark this year,’ Amaro said at season’s end. ‘We have to be cognizant of that. We have been greatly supported – our payroll was, what, $165MM? That should be enough to put a contender on the field.'”

        As for what I would have Ruben do, the answer is hire a sabermetrics expert a year ago to start preparing for post-season FA and trade periods this year. Instead, they waited until 4 days ago to consult part time with sabermetrics-minded Scott Freedman out of the commissioner’s office. Here’s Ruben’s tepid comment on the subject some time back and he’s held to that policy:

        “Look, we are going to continue to be a scouting organization. That said, I think we owe it to ourselves to look at some other ways to evaluate . . . If we have any changes at all it, they will be pretty minor.”

        And minor they were because the club still hasn’t hired anyone and it’s too late even for a part-time outside consultant (good or bad) to help them make decisions now.

        In contrast, Bill James has been on the staff of the Red Sox since 2003 and they’ve won 3 World Series during that period. Every team goes through transitional periods but the Sox are never down for long because of people like James and it’s not surprise the Cards have built a formidable sabermetrics unit which they started to put together 9 years ago. Mozeliak swears by it. In other words, you can’t make “pretty minor” commitments to entering the 21st Century.

        So I guess my answer to your question is I’d have Ruben do nothing. Zilch!
        Consider 2014 another wash – and one that will likely be worse than 2013.

        His multi-year $100 million plus contracts have only come back to haunt the team. And based on Ruben’s bargain basement acquisitions last season I wouldn’t trust him picking “bargains”. either.

        What I’d have him do in the off-season is hire the best sabermetrics person available by league consensus (or the best person they can steal) and have that person build an entire department as Mozeliak did in St. Louis . Next, I would have him hire the best super scout in the business (again by league consensus) and have that person rebuild their scouting department with people who know what they’re doing. IMO, that combo would be a better investment in the team’s future than acquiring Robinson Cano at the league minimum salary while doing a one-for-one trade of MiniMart for Stanton.

        With any luck they’ll be prepared for the 2015 season and truly building for seasons beyond.

  12. c. schreiber

    November 10, 2013 at 11:53 am

    If signed cheaply 500k-750k I say yes..additionally if signed he would take up one of the bench spaces that RAJ could fill with his “lover boy” Minimart.

  13. Hogey's Role

    November 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Another option we have via trade is mark trumbo from the angels… The angels are looking for a third baseman and starting pitching, and they’re believed to covet Kyle Kendrick for some reason, so would a Kendrick and asche for trumbo trade work for both sides or would the phillies have to add a little something to sweeten the pot there…

    I would think we would probably have to include something more to land trumbo, it might be worth looking into for the phils

  14. Chuck A.

    November 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Getting back to the argument about good “clubhouse presence” and “chemistry”…. I feel pretty strongly that that’s one of the reasons why Boston won a title this year. Yes, they had talent and yes, a bunch of guys overachieved and yes, Ben Cherington pushed allllll the right buttons in rebuilding his team (memo to Ruben here)…..

    But…. They had that certain “it” factor that played along with all the talent, etc. Anyone that says that chemistry isn’t important isn’t looking at the whole picture.

    Now…in the case of Mike Morse or Michael Young, one or two guys alone that have that clubhouse presence thing going for themselves aren’t going to hoist the team on their shoulders and carry it to victory. That much is for sure. It takes the ENTIRE 25 man roster (and all the guys being shuttled back and forth from Lehigh or Reading) to embrace the culture and be part of that “chemistry” thing.

  15. sportsdoctor

    November 10, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Morse had a horrific season last year. Barely hit above the Mendoza line. I’d rather allow Darin Ruf to have a full season, that overpay for Morse. Time to move onward to a real contender, not a pretender.

  16. Manny

    November 10, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Morse for 2 million or less? PLAY PLAY PLAY.

    He’s a perfect fit for the team. Outfielder: check. First baseman: check. Right-handed: check. Power hitter: Check. Sure there’s all those injuries in a disappointing 2013, but the price is so low… and the potential is so high… um, what’s not to like?

    • Lefty

      November 10, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      Completely agree Manny. How are things on the other side of the ocean these days?

      • Manny

        November 11, 2013 at 7:51 am

        All good, thanks for asking! Been traveling a lot so it’s harder to post as often as I’d like, but I still check the site and comments all the time 🙂

    • Chuck A.

      November 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      For that little money, I’d go after Morse in a heartbeat.

  17. Double Trouble Del

    November 10, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I understand that Ruf is just that – a little rough around the edges but the guy does have raw power. That being said I still don’t understand the public stance that Amaro has taken with this guy. Ruf is a cheaper and younger and probably better version of Mike Morse.

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