When the San Francisco Giants signed free agent outfielder Michael Morse on Dec. 17, the move signified Brian Sabean's desire to fix something that wasn't entirely broken. Yes, the addition of Morse to the lineup will surely bring power that would-be starter Gregor Blanco could never provide. The Giants have also struggled in the power-hitting department as of late.
But is an influx of home runs really what the team needs? Before we get ahead of ourselves in answering that question, it should be noted that Morse isn't even guaranteed to bring power to the Giants lineup in the first place.
While he is just two years removed from a 31-homer season, it has taken Morse each of the last two seasons combined to match that total. That's not to mention that the ex-Nationals slugger will be moving to the pitcher's heaven that is AT&T Park, which featured the third-lowest home run rate in the majors in 2013 (per ESPN).
However, assuming Morse overcomes his lackluster performance from last season and becomes one of the Giants' premier power sources, will he prove to be worth his $5 million price tag even then?
Part of the reason I'm hesitant to answer "yes" is that Morse won't prove to be a significant upgrade over Blanco. That's primarily because of the defensive liability that Morse has proven to be throughout his career. In fact, Morse has eclipsed Blanco's WAR of 2.5 last season just once in his career, according to baseball-reference.com, and the former's combined WAR over the last three seasons is still less than Blanco's 2013 WAR, per baseball-reference.com.
Of course, WAR is not the all-encompassing statistic that it's often made out to be. There's quite a bit of value to be found in the late-inning home run that Morse will be able to provide far more often than Blanco. But with so much ground to cover in the AT&T Park outfield and the Giants' heavy reliance on pitching, defense should often take precedence over offense in the outfield.
Despite all the potential pitfalls that the addition of Morse brings, the outlook isn't all bad for the upcoming season. According to ZiPS, Morse is projected to compile a .719 OPS with a WAR of 1.2.
Mike Morse ZiPS in SF: 253/304/415, 105 OPS+, -9 DR, 1.2 WAR (110 G)— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 12, 2013
For $5 million, that's pretty solid value, and it will almost certainly be an offensive upgrade over the alternative. Additionally, Bruce Bochy can insert Blanco into the lineup in the later innings for some defensive relief.
But perhaps the best part of the signing is the potential. Don't forget, Morse did bat .294 with an .857 OPS in his four seasons in Washington. A return to that level of play isn't entirely likely, but it's not out of the realm of possibility either.
In my estimation, Morse will finish somewhere in between the aforementioned projected numbers and his pre-2013 numbers. A .265/.310/.450 slash line isn't out of the question, and if all goes well, Morse could even approach 20 home runs.
Why those numbers? Most importantly, Morse has said he's 100 percent healthy, according to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. According to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, Morse has also looked fantastic this spring, and he's happy to be playing for the Giants.
That points toward a nice rebound for Morse, albeit at the price of poor defense in left field. Even so, for $5 million, that's a bargain.
All statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.