Morse Back To Seattle: The Mariners Add Yet Another Bat
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Sunday, January 27th, 2013
By Nicholas Rossoletti (MLB Reports Trade Correspondent): Follow @NRoss56
Once upon a time, Mike Morse was a Seattle Mariners’ farm hand who played parts of four seasons in the majors with Seattle. He never really lived up to expectations during his first time in Seattle. Now, the Mariners have acquired him from the Nationals where he spent the best four seasons of his career. The Mariners are looking everywhere they can for affordable offense, and they have turned back to a familiar face in Morse. The real question is how does Morse fit in Seattle and does the acquisition make the Mariners better?
In order to address this topic, its important that we take a look at how Morse performed last season and whether the decrease in performance is going to carry over into the 2013 campaign. Morse was injured for a portion of the season so it is important to take that into consideration when breaking down his 2012 season, but even with injury, Morse took a fairly large step backwards.
Mike Morse’s 1st hit in the Major Leagues with the Mariners (2005):
Morse was essentially a replacement level asset last year as he dropped 3 wins from his 2011 3.3 WAR to a 2012 WAR of .3. One of the most disturbing trend in Morse’s production was his 3.7% BB rate, which is fairly atrocious. Morse has always been below average with his walk rate (league average has fallen between 8-9% since 2007), but last year, he dropped from 6.3% to the 3.7% number. Obviously, the decrease in his walk rate is disturbing, but it doesn’t stop there. Morse, also, showed a decrease in power from his 2010 and 2011 numbers. Morse’s ISO in 2010 and 2011 was substantially above league average at .229 and .247. In 2012, this number dropped to .180 showing a large decrease in Morse’s isolated power. So far we have a 31 year old corner outfielder, whose elite trait (power) has shown a disturbing downward trend in 2012 while his ability to get on base has also decreased. The next question for the Mariners: is this a trend that necessarily determines future performance?
Upon review of his plate discipline percentages, we don’t see anything to suggest such a large decrease in performance. His swinging strike percentage, o-swing rate and almost all other plate discipline numbers are inline with his 2011 numbers which is encouraging that 2012 could have been an outlier. Our biggest concern has to be that ISO, and Morse’s short sample size of success in the majors. Morse derives the majority of his value as a power hitter so clearly any decrease in ISO is problematic. Given the fact that his new park is traditionally a pitcher’s haven (without taking into account the moving of the fences as we have no idea how that will cause the park to play), Morse will not be able to thrive at a .180 ISO.
Normally, I would say based on the short-term commitment on Morse and the fact that most of his plate patience percentages are in line with his more productive season that the Mariners took a good risk making this move on the hope that Morse will rediscover his 2011 form. Again, the problem with this reasoning is that Morse only has one truly productive season so its hard to determine if 2011 was the outlier or if it was 2012. In the end, the real Morse is probably somewhere in between, which might be ok for the Mariners. However before we pat the Mariners on the back for a risk well taken, I think we need to take a look at where the Mariners were when they made the trade and what they gave up.
Seattle has recently acquired Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales to a team that already had Mike Carp, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero. Those are a lot of bats for only a few positions (LF, DH, 1B and C). By acquiring Morse, the Mariners have taken on another player who requires plate appearances in the 1B/LF/DH spots. While Morse is arguably the best of the group for that position (especially if you believe that he is bound to return to the 2011 form), the trade still calls into question what the hell the Mariners have been doing for the last two months? Why acquire all these players who inevitably steal at bats from each other? Perhaps even more importantly, why would you ever trade John Jaso, the 12th overall catcher in wins above replacement in 2012 (based on catchers with at least 300 plate appearances), to acquire yet another glorified six hitter when you already have at least four such players on your roster?
Honestly, since the moment the trade went down, I thought the A’s got the best of the bargain. Jaso was worth 2.7 WAR last season while playing an incredibly scarce position and posting a .394 OBP. Say what you will about Jaso being a sabermetrics product, but this is an above average offensive catcher who is not so bad on defense that you have to consider playing him somewhere else. Jaso played in 108 games last season for the Mariners. This is an especially concerning piece for the Mariners to trade given that their only catching option on the roster right now is Jesus Montero, who for lack of more articulate phrases, is a bad defensive catcher. Clearly, the Mariners are hoping that uber-prospect Mike Zunino will be ready for the prime time after being drafted out of the University of Florida.
While I love Zunino (a homer call for a fellow Gator), a Major League team should not be going into early February relying on Jesus Montero and a player who hasn’t even logged 300 Plate Appearances in the Minors as their top organizational catchers. In order to add Morse, the Mariners made themselves thinner at a crucial position while solving a catching problem for a division rival that finished in first, 19 games ahead of the Mariners. Strange decision making, especially again, when you consider that every player mentioned above is going to lose at bats to each other including Morse.
I won’t spend too much time on the A’s end of the deal as I know its been covered by other writers on the site. As I have said above, I am convinced that Oakland made a positive move by acquiring Jaso, who is a rare piece in the modern MLB, an acceptable catcher who provides value offensively. If Jaso is given significant playing time as the better part of a platoon with Derek Norris, I believe Oakland will benefit greatly from this deal.
On the Nationals end, they traded one year of a player who was a replacement level bat last year and is on the final year of his deal. Additionally, once the Nationals acquired Denard Span to play Center Field and re-signed Adam Laroche to play first, Morse had no regular positions or at bats on the Nationals. At that point, any valuable piece that the Nationals could acquire for Morse made sense. They re-acquired A.J. Cole, who was a former Nationals farm hand – and one of the center pieces in last off-season’s Gio Gonzalez trade. Cole is an interesting piece. He has good velocity on his fastball and his numbers at low-A have been very good. However, a promotion to High-A last season was incredibly disappointing. In eight starts, Cole saw his K rates decrease and his Home Run rate sky rocket. Obviously, this is a large set-back in Cole’s status as a prospect, but he is still just twenty-one. The Nationals obviously did not lose faith in him, and by dealing Morse, a piece they did not really need, they have reacquired a piece that just twelve months ago they thought very highly of. Additionally, the Nationals received Blake Treinen, who is another young arm. He has put up fairly ordinary numbers at High-A, but he will provide a depth system arm if nothing else.
Overall, I think its fair to say that once again, the Mariners have added an offensive player. Clearly, at the end of last season, the Mariners needed additional offense. However, they spent the entire offseason collecting pieces incredibly similar to Morse – so trading for Morse at this point seems redundant. When you consider that they gave up, in my opinion, the best player in the deal in Jaso, it becomes all the more confusing. I hope for the Mariners sake that we see Morse from 2011 and not 2012. The early review though has the A’s as the winners, the Nationals coming in second as a team getting a potential prospect for a player that didn’t have a space on their roster – and the Mariners coming in third as a team taking a risk on another aging, middle of the lineup bat with injury questions.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Trade Correspondent’ Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter. Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players. He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love. The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseball Follow @NRoss56
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Posted on January 27, 2013, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @Nross56 on twitter, A.J cole, billy beane, blake treinen, denard span, gio gonzalez, Jack Zduriencik, jason bay, john jaso, justin smoak, kendrys morales, mike carp, Mike Morse, mike zunino, Naitonals Park, nicholas rossoletti, o.co coliseum, oakland athletics, raul ibanez, safeco field, seattle mariners, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.