MIKE MORSE, FIRST BASEMAN
|Born: March 22, 1982
Drafted: 3rd Round, 82nd Overall, 2000 (White Sox)
How Acquired: Trade (from Dodgers for Jose Tabata)
High School: Nova (FL) HS
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Morse has had a rather odd career. He was drafted as a shortstop and stayed at the position until he got to AAA. Given his size, scouts doubted his ability to play there in the majors pretty much from the start. He ultimately became a power-hitting corner player. He’s had severe ups and downs as a hitter, possibly due to poor plate discipline and possibly to him suffering a string of minor injuries nearly every season. He no longer runs well at all and defensive metrics consider him absolutely brutal at any position, including first. His defensive numbers are so bad that, even in a very good 2014 season with the Giants, Fangraphs calculated him to be worth just 0.9 WAR. Morse has had almost no platoon split at all during his career. The Pirates picked him up from the Dodgers in a trade just before the 2015 trade deadline.
Morse didn’t hit a lot in his debut, although he wasn’t overmatched. He played shortstop exclusively.
The White Sox moved Morse up only to the Appalachian League, where he showed a little more power but saw his K rate spike to nearly one every three at-bats.
Still playing short, Morse spent the season in low A and made progress with his contact issues.
Morse had a similar season to the year before, with a little more power.
Still playing short, Morse had a breakout season, with a significant increase in power, although with weak plate discipline. At mid-season, the White Sox sent him to Seattle in a five-player deal. He continued to hit well after the trade. He was suspended during the season by both of his teams, reportedly for violations of baseball’s steroids policy. The Mariners added him to their 40-man roster after the season.
Morse got off to a decent start in AAA, then got called up at the end of May when Wilson Valdez flopped as the team’s shortstop. Morse started 50 games at short over the rest of the season and also spent a little time in left. He also missed ten games in September due to another steroids-related suspension (suspensions were much shorter then). He hit reasonably well in the majors.
Morse was up and down several times between AAA and the majors, but he got only limited playing time with Seattle. At both levels he divided his playing time between the infield and outfield corners, and short.
Morse spent most of the season in AAA, playing third and short, mostly the former. He cut down significantly on the strikeouts.
Morse missed nearly the entire season with a dislocated shoulder.
Seattle sent Morse back to AAA, where he split his time between second, third and short, and hit well. At mid-season, Seattle traded him to the Nationals. They sent him to AAA, then called him up in late August. He played mainly first, third and right in the majors.
Morse opened the season with the Nationals, but went on the disabled list with a left calf strain after a few games. Following a rehab in AAA, he returned to the Nats and finally established himself as a major leaguer with big numbers the rest of the season. He played some at first, but mostly in right.
Morse spent the season in the Nats’ lineup, mostly at first due to an injury to Adam LaRoche. He had by far his biggest major league season, driving in 95 runs, a career high by 33. A bad BB:K ratio, though, was somewhat ominous.
Morse opened the season as the Nats’ right fielder, although he ultimately spent more time in left. He missed time during the season with a strained lat muscle, and thumb and wrist injuries. His hitting fell off as his walk rate dropped to very low levels. After the season, Washington sent him back to Seattle in a three-team trade.
Seattle had a fascination for a couple years with 1B/DH type players, of which Morse seemed to be a part. It didn’t go well, probably in part due to the Mariners’ home park being terrible for power hitters. Morse struggled with Safeco Field, posting a dismal .578 OPS there, compared to a sort-of passable .710 on the road. He also struggled with injuries, including eye and finger injuries, and repeated right quad problems. Seattle sent him to the Orioles in a waiver deal at the end of August and he didn’t hit at all afterward. Over the course of the season he played strictly in the outfield corners.
The Giants signed Morse to a one-year, $6M contract for 2014 and he came through for them in a big way. He did miss time with foot, back, toe and oblique injuries, but in between he spent time at first and in right, and posted the team’s second highest OPS+, at 132.
After his strong 2014 season, Miami risked signing Morse to a two-year, $16M deal. He opened 2015 as their first baseman, but didn’t hit and then went out for six weeks with a strained finger. At the trade deadline, Miami sent him to the Dodgers in a complicated, three-team deal, with his role probably being to provide the Marlins with salary relief. The next day, the Dodgers sent Morse and cash to the Pirates for Jose Tabata, whose inclusion made up part of the salary owed to Morse in 2015-16. The Pirates desperately needed a right-handed hitting platoon player for first base to replace Sean Rodriguez, who had a dismal 47 OPS+ through the time of the Morse trade, including a 113/161/132 line in July. Although he hasn’t had much of a platoon split over his career, Morse did reasonably well in his limited chances with the Pirates, mainly as a result of drawing a lot of walks.
Morse is still under contract for 2016 and the Pirates will be responsible for about $5.5M of his deal. He was expected, despite his lack of a career platoon split, to open the season as John Jaso’s platoon partner, but he was bothered by a hamstring problem late in spring training. Once Jung-Ho Kang returned, the Pirates were expecting David Freese to move into the firstbase platoon role, which would push Morse into a more straightforward bench role.
UPDATE: The Pirates’ acquisition of Freese and Jason Rogers made Morse superfluous and, sure enough, the team designated him for assignment a little over a week into the season when it needed to add a bullpen arm. In the very likely event he clears waivers, Morse will almost certainly opt for free agency.
|Signing Bonus: $365,000
MiLB Debut: 2000
MLB Debut: 5/31/2005
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2016
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November 19, 2004
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 8.114
|June 5, 2000: Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 3rd round, 82nd overall pick; signed on June 19.
June 27, 2004: Traded by the Chicago White Sox with Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed to the Seattle Mariners for Ben Davis and Freddy Garcia.
November 19, 2004: Contract purchased by the Seattle Mariners.
June 28, 2009: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Washington Nationals for Ryan Langerhans.
January 16, 2013: Traded by the Washington Nationals to the Seattle Mariners as part of a three-team trade, with A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and Ian Krol going from the Oakland Athletics to the Nationals; and John Jaso from the Mariners to the Athletics.
August 30, 2013: Traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Baltimore Orioles for Xavier Avery.
October 31, 2013: Became a free agent.
December 17, 2013: Signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants.
October 30, 2014: Became a free agent.
December 17, 2014: Signed as a free agent with the Miami Marlins.
July 30, 2015: Traded by the Miami Marlins with Mat Latos to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team trade, with Jose Peraza, Luis Avilan, Bronson Arroyo, Jim Johnson and Alex Wood going from the Atlanta Braves to the Dodgers; Zachary Bird, Hector Olivera and Paco Rodriguez from the Dodgers to the Braves; Victor Araujo, Jeff Brigham and Kevin Guzman from the Dodgers to the Marlins; and a competitive balance pick from the Marlins to the Braves.
July 31, 2015: Traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers with cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Tabata.
April 13, 2016: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.