The San Francisco Giants were long rumored to be going after an upgrade in left field and someone who would allow Gregor Blanco to be a fourth outfielder. The Giants were exploring both free agent and trade options. Names like Shin-Shoo Choo and Michael Morse were the names most likely linked with the Giants but were thought to be too expensive. There were also some trade options like Alejandro De Aza of the Chicago White Sox, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees and even Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies was available for the right price.
The Giants have spent this offseason signing guys to bargain contracts ( see Tim Hudson and Hunter Pence). Their mindset was that if the right man was available they would make a move for him. The Giants locked down Michael Morse early Thursday morning after some experts expected him to go to the Houston Astros, who offered him more money than the Giants. Morse chose the Giants for a bargain contract of 1 year and 6 million. That’s a low risk high reward signing by the Giants assuming that Morse can have a 2010 Pat Burrell type impact or better.
Morse was someone the Giants wanted this whole offseason as Giants Manager Bruce Bochy is a big fan of Morse both for his play and attitude in the clubhouse. Morse has something to prove after coming off a very disappointing season which was split between the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. He only hit 215 with a 270 OBP and 13 homeruns. Those numbers were a far cry from the 31 home run season he produced with the Washington Nationals in 2011. Being fair to Morse, he was battling a wrist injury which hindered him, so 2014 will be an opportunity for Morse to prove himself.
The Giants chose Morse over a trade for someone like a Domonic Brown who was rumored to be on the Giants short list of trade candidates. The Phillies are still willing to move Brown, but it will most likely take a big offer to acquire him, like some young pitching prospects that the Giants were unwilling to give up.
Brown is obviously younger than Morse and has a much higher ceiling as he was coming into his own with the Phillies before injuries put a damper on his season. If the Giants choose to trade for Brown he would more than likely be looked at as more of a long term solution than Morse who’s more of a short term fix. The Giants went with Morse because he was cheaper and is a much more proven hitter at the big league level than Brown is right now.
The Giants acquired Morse for his bat. However, there’s serious concerns about his defense, both first baseman and left fielder. The Giants have said that they will do with Morse what they did with Burrell in 2010, which is replace him with a better defensive player (Blanco) in the later innings. The Giants expect Morse who is now healthy to do his damage in innings 1-7 and then sub him out once the Giants have the lead. Morse will probably cost the Giants several runs throughout the season with his fielding, but if he makes them up with his bat then the Giants can live with his defense.
The Giants also signed Morse because they were more interested in getting a right handed hitter rather than another lefty as in Brown or Choo would be. The Giants expect Morse to be their everyday left fielder, but if that doesn’t work out he’ll at least be able to platoon with Blanco which wouldn’t be the end of the world. Morse can also play first base and Bochy said Morse could play first base against lefties. But given current first baseman Brandon Belt’s season last year it seems unlikely that Morse will see a lot of time at first base.
With signing Morse the Giants strenghten their lineup by adding another power bat. If they stay healthy and the pitching staff pitches better than last season, they will be ready to compete in the National League West with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.