For many Ranger fans Michael Morse appears to be a huge upgrade to whatever the Texas Rangers will have at 1B. But is he really that much of an upgrade? First of all, Morse has played 100 games or more at a single level twice in seven professional years in the league.
To give you an idea of last year’s injury troubles, here is and excerpt from The Washington Post writer James Wagner: “It has been a trying season for the slugger, who missed the season’s first 50 games with a lat muscle strain and then has dealt with a bad bone bruise in his left wrist and a sore right hand. After missing four games because of his left wrist in mid-September, Morse has hit .326 (17 for 52) with five home runs and 13 RBI. With Wednesday’s home run, Morse finishes the regular season hitting .291/.321/.470 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 102 games.” Morse also felt a lot of pain during a home run trot because of a muscle spasm. After that specific game Nationals Manager Davey Johnson spotted Morse in the training room with electrodes on his leg and joked, “Hopefully it was just a spasm, might be a first if somebody pulled a hamstring on a home run.”
The Michael Morse talk came today when Nationals 1B Adam LaRoche resigned for 2 years and $24 MM with an option for a third year. With the signing, the Nationals would enter Spring Training with LaRoche, Morse and 25 year old Tyler Moore.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has publicly let it been know that he is willing to deal Morse in return for players that can impact the game, either MLB ready or minor league prospects. First question of availability is answered. Morse is on the market. Now, do the Rangers actually have a need? I would say yes they do have a need for a middle of the order type of batter at 1B. Okay, can the Rangers afford it? That is a tricky question. If Morse was traded for with MLB minimum salary players, Texas would have to swallow $7 MM for the upcoming season. That would put the Rangers over $130 MM in total salary using arbitration projections. If I’m Jon Daniels, I think the money end is pretty risky but I would allow it if it made a big enough difference.
The real question is: Is Morse really that much of an upgrade? Can trading for Morse justify itself in terms of money, production and what is being given to the Nationals. For example: if the Nationals want Leury Garcia and Nicholas Tepesch … do you take it for one year of Morse and his salary? If so, where does Mitch Moreland go?
Many think Moreland (27 yrs old) and Morse (30 yrs old) have no comparison whatsoever, but realistically, they are surprisingly somewhat comparable.
Moreland’s 162 game average: 66 Runs, 22 HR’s, 69 RBI’s, 109 SO’s. With a triple slash of: .264/.328/.441
Morse’s 162 game average: 66 Runs, 23 HR’s, 82 RBI’s, 123 SO’s. With a triple slash of: .295/.347/.492
Morse has the clear advantage offensively, but I would argue I thought Morse would stand out even more. Defensively Morse has racked up an Ultimate Zone Rating of -2.7 in 872 career innings at 1B. Moreland has a 3.1 UZR in 1859 career innings at 1B. Michael produced a WAR of .3 in over 400 at-bats last year. Mitch produced a WAR of .6 in under 330 at-bats last year.
Here comes the big one: Michael Morse will cost $7 MM against the Rangers’ books, while Mitch Moreland will cost just about ~$500K.
Morse isn’t coming to Texas. He isn’t an absolute lock to be worth every penny of his contract. He will need to put up a season like Adam Dunn, Ike Davis, and Nelson Cruz did in 2012 to be worth his pay in 2013. With the money issue, injury history and Mitch Moreland being an above average first baseman (if given a starting job) …. Mr. Morse just isn’t worth the risk, bottom line.