Morse is a somewhat unique player in that his career line of .295/.347/.492 and a 2012 season in which he posted a .291/.321/.470 line with 18 Home Runs in just 430 at bats make him appear very appealing. A career WRc of 127, and no apparent splits between his ability to hit Left Handed and Right Handed Pitching suggest he should be in the lineup every day.
So why then is Washington in such a hurry to trade the 31 year old with the $6.75 million dollar salary given they are trying to compete this year?
But there is something else to consider, Michael Morse is a terrible baserunner and even worse outfielder (at least according to advanced metrics at fangraphs). To spite his career .295/.347/.492 line with 70 HR's he has ammassed over 1690 PA's his baserunning and defense has drawn him down to only 6.1 fWAR during that time.(about 2.2 WAR per 600 PA's) His UZR in the Outfield is -15.2, however, as will become relevant later, it is only -3.6 in 872 innings at 1B.
Additionally, Michael Morse has a very interesting approach at the plate, he walks about a 6% rate (3.7% in 2012) and strikes out about 22% of the time. He also mainatins a BABIP well above league average at .344, which many would suggest should regress, but after 1690 PA's I would be more inclined to believe it is a function of his hit ball hard approach. This is backed up by his career ISO of .197, 20% LD rate, and his almost double league average career 18.2% HR/FB rate.
Deffering to individuals much smarter then me, and with a desire to keep the post a reasonable length, Fangraphs has posted two articles on Morse's approach and comparables which can be found here and here.
So the vibe I get from MLB Traderumours is that with only one year of control, providing no defensive or baserunning value, and a salary of $6.75 million there is not a tonne of trade value there. Some suggest that Mr. Rizzo should take whatever he can get but I doubt he will move him just for the sake of it given how he handled Lannan.
It did get me thinking though, if as a 1B/DH Morse could provide 2+ WAR or more over 600 PA, he would be worth approximately $10 million per season. Maybe I'm just overthinking it, overating Morse or am not that smart but what I have not seen suggested anywhere as of yet is, what if you traded for Morse with the intention, assuming he put together another solid season, of making him a qualifying offer after the season was over. When you consider the scenarios, it seems like a reasonable win-win.
If he accepts then you essentially got a solid hitter at about market value of 2/21 (assuming he produces 2+fWAR per season) but only gave up in the trade the value of a player with one year of control. If he declines the qualifying offer, he leaves and you get the draft pick compensation which would help re-plenish what you spent in the trade and is even more valuable given the slot money rules. Another similar scenario is Josh Johnson, he'll be motivated in his free agent year, if he's stellar and turns down the qualifying offer (and any reasonable extension offer), the draft pick can be used to draft a Nicolino or Marisnick that was given up in the Mathis trade. If he accepts you get a quality starter and a reasonable rate and aren't burdened by a long term deal for a pitcher in his 30's.
For a team in contention for the short term (like the Blue Jays or Braves) this seems like an interesting strategy. Continue making Qualifying offers until you are out of contention, he begins his decline, or until he elects Free Agency.
I guess what I'm wondering, and asking your opinion on, is if this represents a small market inefficiency that a team with an abundance of mid-range prospects or relievers could capitalize on. This might also be a unique scenario in that you have a player on the last year of their contract making a reasonably team friendly salary, is on the fringe of where you would make a qualifying offer (or being worth close to $14 million), and is also available in the off-season (because you can't make qualifying offers to players acquired mid-season).
So, if you were a GM would you offer that extra prospect to trade for Micheal Morse, assuming that you either get him for 1 year at $6.75 million and a top 40 pick or at least 2 years $21 million or potentially 3/$35 million (which is still 4 million less then the napoli contract)?
The Blue Jays Perspective:
I coudn't write a post here without brining up whether Morse would be a fit with the Blue Jays. I doubt we are in the running for a variety of reason's which include:
- We can't take on salary so we would also have to find someone willing to take on Adam Lind and his $5 million salary (and potential $2 million buyout, although this isnt neccessarily impossible), but there is also risk that Lind has figured it out + gets platooned and has a very productive 400 ABs elsewhere and produces more surplus value
- We don't have a Lefty Reliever to spare (unless we complete a "sign and trade" that sends Oliver to the Nationals at $4.5 or $5 million + maybe Sierra for Depth and a pitching prospect *pure speculation as there are infinite trade possibilities)
- Morse isn't a Left Handed Bat (although he doesn't really have splits so if you're worry is that opposing managers might play "match-up" against Bautista, EE, Morse I think I take my chances)
All that being said though, if AA had the opportunity to make the move for the right price (i.e. pay the trade value of someone with 1 year of control) I would want him to make it.
He's an improvement over Lind both at the plate and I believe defensively (because he won't break down playing first). Although he has only 1 year of control, I believe he is a big enough contributor to "risk" making a qualifying offer to in at least 1 if not 2 years. If he accepts both you have a consistent power bat (and I smile a little to think what a 20% + HR/FB ratio would turn into at the Roger's Centre) for a reasonable 2/21 or 3/35 (I don't think Morse producing 7 fWAR as a 1B/DH over 3 years is that much of a stretch). If he declines the qualifying offer you could still potentially resign a multiyear deal at a lower AAV or if he leaves you get the top 40 pick.
AA utilized his farm system extremely well in order to make this team a legitimate contender. Now taking advantage of the Qualifying Offer Market we have seen this offseason I believe he can use players like Josh Johnson and Michael Morse to either extend the window of competitiveness or add first round picks (which will often be from big market division and wild card rivals) to restock the farm and continue using the trade market to extend the competitive window.
So, I hope I have provided some insight into a player that I think is unique and an interesting potential new market inefficiency. Hopefully you will wigh in with your thoughts and opinions.