This year's winter meetings have been relatively quiet, with so much action taking place in the week leading up to them, but one team expected to make a play for a bat was the San Francisco Giants.
Having already re-signed Hunter Pence during the season and Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong this offseason—along with bringing aboard veteran Tim Hudson on a two-year deal—the Giants' biggest remaining need was in left field.
They were either looking for an everyday option or at the very least a right-handed hitting platoon bat to pair with last year's starter, Gregor Blanco.
Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News reported that they found their man on Thursday morning, agreeing to terms on a one-year deal with free agent Michael Morse.
Despite poor numbers last season, the 31-year-old was one of the few right-handed power bats on the market and among the top low-risk, high-reward candidates who could be in for a bounce-back season in 2014.
A late-bloomer to begin with, Morse was not an everyday player until the age of 29 in 2011. He broke out in a big way that year, though, posting a .910 OPS with 31 home runs and 95 RBI.
Here is a look at his career numbers:
|Michael Morse Career Stats|
|2005||SEA||230 AB, .278/.349/.370, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 27 R|
|2006||SEA||43 AB, .372/.396/.488, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 5 R|
|2007||SEA||18 AB, .444/.500/.556, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R|
|2008||SEA||9 AB, .222/.364/.333, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R|
|2009||WSN||52 AB, .250/.291/.481, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 R|
|2010||WSN||266 AB, .289/.352/.519, 15 HR, 41 RBI, 36 R|
|2011||WSN||522 AB, .303/.360/.550, 31 HR, 95 RBI, 73 R|
|2012||WSN||406 AB, .291/.321/.470, 18 HR, 62 RBI, 53 R|
|2013||SEA/BAL||312 AB, .215/.270/.381, 13 HR, 27 RBI, 34 R|
Following his breakthrough in 2011, Morse battled injuries in 2012, but still put up solid numbers when he was on the field.
As an impending free agent—and with Adam LaRoche re-signed—the Nationals opted to trade him last offseason, shipping him to the offense-starved Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade with the A's for top prospect A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and Ian Krol.
After putting up a 1.332 OPS with nine home runs and 15 RBI over 56 at-bats in spring training, Morse continued this hot play over the first month of the regular season.
However, he steadily fell off from there.
|Michael Morse 2013 Month-by-Month Stats|
|March/April||98 AB, .245/.288/.510, 8 HR, 12 RBI, 11 R|
|May||75 AB, .267/.360/.413, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 9 R|
|June||34 AB, .235/.270/.382, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 4 R|
|July||9 AB, .000/.000/.000, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R|
|August||67 AB, .179/.225/.328, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 7 R|
|Sept/Oct||29 AB, .103/.133/.103, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 3 R|
Right quad issues sidelined him for much of the summer and he also had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his left wrist, so it's fair to say that he was not at full strength for much of the season.
According to a tweet from Jon Heyman of CBSSports, Morse will receive a base salary of $6 million on the one-year deal. The contract also includes some incentives, as Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted earlier in the day.
It's a minimal risk from the Giants' standpoint, and for a team in need of more offensive firepower, it has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of the offseason.
Can Morse really revive his career in San Francisco, though?
AT&T Park regularly ranks among the best pitcher's parks in baseball, and by ESPN's Park Factor statistics, it ranked tied for 26th in runs (0.869) and 28th in home runs (0.768) in 2013. The scale sets 1.000 as the league average, with numbers over that figure indicating that a park is hitter-friendly.
That said, Morse has put up decent numbers there in a limited five-game showing, going 6-for-19 with three doubles, one home run and four RBI.
On top of that, a closer look at his numbers from last year shows he was the victim of some bad luck. He posted a .254 BABIP, well below the league average, and a return to his .330 career mark would make for a significant improvement across the board offensively.
Expecting him to return to his 2011 form may be asking a little much, but if he can post something like a .265/.320/.450 line with 20 home runs and 75 RBI over 400 or so at-bats, he'd be well worth the investment for the Giants.
Last season, Giants left fielders hit just .257/.314/.337 with a position-low five home runs, so the move looks like a good one for a team looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 campaign and get back to contending.