Michael Morse, or, a strange free agent target for the Colorado Rockies


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies want to add more pop to their lineup. They have started that process with the signing of Justin Morneau, but presumably a part-time first baseman does not represent the end of their search. That brings us to an odd name that MLB.com writer Thomas Harding mentions as a target:

"Outfielder Michael Morse, who hit 31 home runs for the Nationals in 2011 and 13 for the Mariners last season while battling injuries and underwent postseason left wrist surgery, has emerged as a target in the Rockies’ search for a right-handed bat."

This is the time of year when we allow ourselves to salivate at the possibilities of an intimidating lineup, and one with Morse would certainly be that. Here’s a reasonable attempt to guess what Colorado’s lineup would be with Morse:

2B DJ LeMahieu (because who else bats lead-off?)
CF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Michael Morse
C Wilin Rosario
1B Justin Morneau
3B Nolan Arenado

Even if that isn’t the exact order, the potential of Morse’s production (he hit 31 home runs in 2011 and 18 in 2012) among all of those other bats would make for a scary lineup. But would it be worth it for what the Rockies would have to give up in the field?

The search for offense is a top priority this off-season, but the Rockies re-learned the value of team defense in 2013. They also re-learned how much good team defense helps their starting pitchers (who are encouraged again and again to pitch to contact to be more efficient). Colorado is poised to play stellar defense in the infield with Arenao, Tulo, LeMahieu, and Morneau, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to have an atrocious outfield behind them.

CarGo will likely improve the team’s defense in center field, but Cuddyer is notoriously suspect in right field. In 2013 his -13.4 UZR ranked third-worst in all of baseball among outfielders (according to FanGraphs). In the meantime you have the 6’5″ 245 lb Morse, who has been historically awful in the outfield. From FanGraphs, here are his UZR marks in the outfield in his career:

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

2010: -6.6
2011: -7.2
2012: -10.5
2013: -11.9

It is tough enough for the Rockies’ pitchers to survive with those vast Coors Field gaps. Can you imagine how bad things could get if Morse and Cuddyer played even six innings of a given game on either side of CarGo?

That cannot happen, and Morse’s offense is not enough to justify signing him. This is a bad fit, and the Rockies need to look elsewhere.