Hart, Morrison, And Something For Everyone

Jeff Sullivan · December 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Jeff Passan just put something up at Yahoo! about two agents fighting in the winter meetings resort parking lot. As Passan says, it’s maybe the most interesting thing to happen at the meetings so far, as the biggest move was a three-way trade in which the best player is Mark Trumbo. With the pitching market on hold and so many moves having already been made over the previous few weeks, the meetings have been relatively slow, but then Mariners fans have at least had some material to talk about Wednesday. Earlier today, the Mariners signed Corey Hart to a one-year contract, and then barely minutes later it came out that the Mariners also traded Carter Capps for Logan Morrison. In the time it takes to make a sandwich, the Mariners picked up two significant players, and now we’re that much closer to seeing what the overall picture will look like next March.

The pair of moves is so interesting specifically because it’s so interesting. They might as well be grouped together, since they practically happened together, and what’s notable is that there’s fodder for the most ardent front-office supporters, the most stubborn, outspoken critics, and everybody in between. Truly, there’s something for everyone, no matter where they might be found along the organizational opinion spectrum.

We can take the super positive angle first. Hart’s a great get on a low-risk, one-year deal with a $6-million base. He missed literally the entire season, but he’s not old and over the previous three years he was one of the more productive hitters in all of baseball, with a hell of a lot of power. He’s a good bet to out-hit Nelson Cruz in 2014, and he might even stand a decent chance of out-hitting Shin-Soo Choo, and both those free agents are looking to really cash in. Hart can’t hurt very much, but he can deliver very much, and he makes the Mariners better without taking anything away from the future. What’s not to like?

And then there’s Morrison, who the Mariners got for a reliever with nothing to throw to left-handed hitters. A reliever with diminished velocity and unstable mechanics. A non-elite reliever. Morrison isn’t that far removed from being an upper-level offensive prospect, and while he was on the market, smart teams like the Rays and Pirates checked in to see what they could make happen. He’s supposed to be healthy now, after fighting some knee issues, and he has a good approach, and he’s basically an upside get. He’s under team control for three years, should he take a step forward. He’s 26 years old and his OBP in the upper minors was north of .400. Morrison has potential. Capps has potential, too, but better to have the bat with potential than the reliever with potential, most of the time.

And having Hart and Morrison adds flexibility because now the Mariners can deal Justin Smoak. Or, they can turn around and deal Morrison if they want, maybe as part of a bigger package. There are still teams out there looking for cheap first basemen, and suddenly the Mariners have cheap depth. There’s nothing wrong with having options.

Now we can shift to the negative outlook. You know who Corey Hart is a lot like? Michael Morse. You know who Logan Morrison is a lot like? Justin Smoak. You know who haven’t worked out for the Mariners recently? Michael Morse and Justin Smoak. You can only complain about Hart so much, since he’s affordable and he required nothing in the way of a long-term commitment, but it’s easy to interpret Hart as just the latest in a series of intended dinger-providers. Who knows what he can do after a year off, and reports say the Mariners are giving Hart a base salary that’s about the same as where the Brewers’ offer would’ve topped out. Hart seems like a bargain, but the market allowed him to be a bargain, which might mean he’s not a real bargain at all. And he’s not even the most troubling half of this pair of moves.

Over parts of four seasons, Logan Morrison has posted a career WAR of 1. That’s according to FanGraphs. According to Baseball-Reference, he’s posted a career WAR of -0.1, and that’s while being an above-average hitter. The year Baseball America called Morrison baseball’s #20 prospect, it called Smoak baseball’s #13 prospect. It called Dustin Ackley baseball’s #11 prospect. It called Jesus Montero baseball’s #4 prospect. The Mariners have seen enough of these guys threaten to bust, and Morrison isn’t automatically better just because we haven’t been the ones watching him struggle. His offense has taken a step back, and he doesn’t seem to be an adequate defender anywhere.

And the Mariners say they intend to keep Smoak where he is. Of course, they also say they will turn Nick Franklin into a utility player, so, you know, whatever, this is just how things go this time of year. But the Mariners have been Smoak supporters for a while, and if they do keep him in place like they say, that means Hart and Morrison will split time in left field and at DH. The way it’s been explained to me is that both players will get about half the time at both positions. That means the Mariners would have two left fielders coming off three major knee surgeries.

Morrison might well be a replacement-level player. Hart wasn’t an asset in the outfield even before he busted both his knees. This would be an example of the Mariners both getting suckered again by Smoak-like potential, and ignoring the importance of defense as they did with Morse and Raul Ibanez. If anything the Mariners needed one fewer Smoak, not a second one, playing a defensive position he shouldn’t play. Maybe if Morrison and Smoak were in a job share, you could wait to see if one stepped up. Maybe if the Mariners weren’t in position of needing to win soon, you could wait to see if one stepped up. But Morrison doesn’t look like a great gamble as a half-time outfielder, and Smoak and Hart are forcing him into that position. Though he has the prospect background, that’s getting further and further away, and he’s got 1500 big-league plate appearances suggesting what he is.

If you’ve got material for the most positive people, and if you’ve got material for the most negative people, you’ve got material for everybody else somewhere in the middle. So this has been a pretty fascinating day, with no real consensus and with a lot of potential implications. Myself, I like the Hart move quite a bit, even if he is just another dinger hitter. Dinger hitters can be good! Especially when they don’t cost you much. In isolation, I’d like the Morrison move, too, because I’ll take potential for a young reliever. But it’s a strange fit for this team if this team really is going to hang on to both Morrison and Smoak going forward. Neither have hit very well, and the guy expected to play in the outfield isn’t real good at that. It’s bad for the defense, and how high is Morrison’s upside, really? Is this the best way to maximize the chances of winning in the next few years, before Cano turns the wrong corner?

This does open the door to in-season flexibility, in that, if Smoak struggles, the team could try Morrison at first and someone else in the outfield. In a sense, they have two simultaneous chances to find a young first baseman. It’s just that one of them won’t be playing first base out of the gate, if things stay as they are. That’s weird, and together, these moves do suggest the Mariners still highly value power and don’t highly value defense. That’s about how we thought of them, so it’s no surprise we are where we are now. But we could still definitely be worse off, if the Mariners, say, caved to Nelson Cruz’s lofty demands. The front-office philosophy led to a couple interesting players, and neither is expensive. It could be a lot worse. Things are sort of odd now, but the offseason’s far from over, and for the Mariners I think today was more good news than bad. A few more days like that and we could really have something.


50 Responses to “Hart, Morrison, And Something For Everyone”

  1. jeffgreensmom on December 11th, 2013 9:59 pm

    I think this is as consequential to Montero’s future as it is to Smoak’s. Although Montero’s value is at a low point, he may be valued higher than Smoak by some front offices and could be a significant second piece of a package in a trade for a good major league player.

    At a minimum, these moves signal that the M’s fully expect Montero to be in Tacoma for much of next year.

  2. Gormogon on December 11th, 2013 10:23 pm

    I feel like LoMo is one of those guys who is an asshole but who will play well with a chip on his shoulder. To the extent he may want to say “piss off” to the Marlins, maybe he’ll actually outperform expectations.

  3. SeattleSlew on December 11th, 2013 10:32 pm

    I don’t think Montero has any value at this point. He would have to show something in Tacoma for teams to at least consider. After all its not difficult to find a DH (as the M’s have shown). Smoak at least has been on the team and shown what he can do.

    Is there any chance Gutierrez will be back on the team?

  4. diderot on December 11th, 2013 10:46 pm

    Anyone who thinks Morrison is an ‘asshole’ should read his goodbye letter to Miami fans and teammates.

    The ‘only values dingers’ thing stems from the ultimate roster construction last year. But remember, that was plan C. Plan A was Hamilton, who is not considered a defensive liability (although now maybe he should be). Plan B was Upton, who is not considered a defensive liability. So is this just ‘small sample size’ bias? After all, Z is also the guy who went out and got Guti.

    I don’t know. But I think it’s safer to see where we are when spring training starts.

  5. jeffgreensmom on December 11th, 2013 10:55 pm

    Montero just turned 24. A 24 year old that was once as prized a prospect as Montero will always hold some value. Because he did not lose his value by completely blowing out his shoulder, hip or knee, I suspect there are some GMs that would salivate with Montero added as the second piece following Ackley/Franklin/Paxton. Smoak was never valued as highly of a prospect as Montero and is three years older.

    Smoak is a former prospect whereas Montero is young enough to still be a prospect; being labeled a prospect implies potential and leads people, including GMs, to irrationally overvalue because of the supposed upside.

  6. Westside guy on December 11th, 2013 11:01 pm

    I agree with diderot, although last off-season is still fresh enough, and questionable comments from Lincoln and Z recent enough, to leave a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

  7. Miles on December 11th, 2013 11:04 pm

    Don’t worry too much about Morrison. He’s going to Tampa in a deal for Price.

  8. ChrisFB on December 11th, 2013 11:21 pm

    Still holding out for Choo.

  9. californiamariner on December 11th, 2013 11:28 pm

    My worry is that they are still going to throw a bunch of money at Nelson Cruz and then we are going to have an outfield with him in one corner and Morrison/Hart in the other corner all year. And yet again, yay defense.

  10. killeverything on December 12th, 2013 1:00 am

    I just read on mlbtraderumors that both Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak are available.

    Yep. That was worth Pineda.

  11. mossi on December 12th, 2013 1:11 am

    Is Almonte a true prospect? Does he figure on the depth chart? Or is he a junior-Endy Chavez-type satellite towards the black hole?

  12. maqman on December 12th, 2013 1:38 am

    They need an outfielder who can provide superior defense – Guti. I think they get him back. I wouldn’t totally be surprised if they resign Morales. Too bad they lost out of Colon but 2/$20M was a bit over the top for him.

    I’m waiting on Tanaka, like everyone else. I think they go for him. I sure hope so.

  13. killeverything on December 12th, 2013 2:06 am

    They may go for Tanaka, but EVERYONE else is too. They beat the Yankees once, I don’t think they will again. Plus Rodney is apparently wanting a 2-3 year deal at 10m per and I thought he was on the wish list.

    I’m more concerned with them actually having a good defense in the outfield this year. I’m pretty sure they bring back Guti I’m just scared they’ll compliment him with Ibanez again. Defense has been severely lacking for so long I think that’s the biggest change to get to .500, not homeruns.

  14. bookbook on December 12th, 2013 2:27 am

    I like both moves, assuming an organization that knows how to deal with the results.

    I am starting to wonder if Franklin might turn out to be the better 1b option than any of them. (much rather trade him for a legit OFer, of course.)

  15. killeverything on December 12th, 2013 2:54 am

    I don’t know what legit OFer is available though. Cashman turned down the Brandon Phillips for Bret Gardner offer. In Gardner’s walk year he’s only owed 4m and Cashman really likes him on the roster.

    I think they owe us one for giving us Montero for Pineda. That was a dick move, even by Yankees standards.

  16. sexymarinersfan on December 12th, 2013 2:56 am

    Why not package Smoak, Franklin, and Paxton together and see if Tampa bites for Price. If so then use his two years throw the QO on his As$ and grab you’re 1st rd pick.

    Afterwards take a run at rounding out you’re rotation with Tanaka and you’ve got the best 5-man rotation in baseball.

    Don’t stop there! Toronto is looking for good young pitching, and has a “gaping” hole at 2nd base. Package Ackley and Ramirez together for Rasmus and possibly a young catching prospect and sign Guti as you’re 4th OF’er.

    Then finish it off by low-balling BorAss for Morales on a 1-yr deal to DH and spell Morrison at 1B vs. left handed pitching. It COULD be done!



  17. Gibbo on December 12th, 2013 3:05 am

    Wow big dreams there marinersfan. But I think we have trades to be done though, Rays, Royals, Padres, Brewers or Blue Jays. We have 2B to trade a couple of busted prospects and plenty of pitching.

  18. Bodhizefa on December 12th, 2013 3:15 am

    Regardless of position, the Morrison move just doesn’t make any sense for the M’s. They needed a guy like Ruggiano — a dude who can hammer left-handed pitching — but instead they’re saddled with a roster full of hitters who turn into pumpkins against southpaws (except for Hart). There’s just no way they can take this roster into the Spring without adding at least one more credible threat at the plate from the right side.

    I like Morrison more than I like Capps, so I can’t complain really. But I’m hoping this is a preface to another series of moves, because this offense as it’s currently constructed is kindof dumb.

  19. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 4:51 am

    I’m not worried about Morrison. He’s flexibility/depth. I think we’re all assuming that the Mariners are out shopping for parts, while forgetting that so are the OTHER teams at the meetings. Who’s to say they didn’t approach us about Capps, and we felt Morrison was a more valuable piece to own than Capps, all things considered, so we did the deal?

    As for Montero– Z was quoted yesterday as saying “He’s not in our plans moving forward. If he wants to play himself back into the picture, we’ll take another look then.”

    He never actually used the word “doghouse” but that’s clearly the implication.

  20. The Ancient Mariner on December 12th, 2013 4:54 am

    Personally, I’d rather have Anthony Gose from Toronto than Rasmus.

  21. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 5:48 am

    Ancient Mariner-
    Well yeah, but the problem is, so would Toronto… Which is why Colby Rasmus is available. They’ve made it public that Colby Rasmus can be had for starting pitching.

  22. qwerty on December 12th, 2013 7:07 am

    What I like about the Morrison and Hart deals is that we’re now talking about different people than last year.

  23. currcoug on December 12th, 2013 7:23 am

    Mariners make Smoak, Montero available, per MLB Trade Rumors.

  24. Eastside Suds on December 12th, 2013 8:11 am

    As per the “news” this morning, Ibanez is setting sail for safer harbors. We just don’t need another left handed bat who can’t play a position with success. Morales is still in play, but you have to believe he is plan “B” or “C”.

    A right handed bat is a major need along with a SP. Hope we get this done by week’s end.

    Would love to see Guti signed with incentives, but the report is that he is already shut down in winter ball due to a viral infection. Poor guy. We need defense in the outfield!!!

  25. kinickers77 on December 12th, 2013 8:28 am

    Sexymarinersfan – I like your thinking! I’d be all for those moves. Except, I’d try to deal Mauer instead of Ramirez in that deal for Rasmus

  26. TumwaterMike on December 12th, 2013 8:43 am

    A couple of years from now I see Kyle Seager at 1B and D.J. Peterson at 3rd. or visa/versa. We do not need a long term solution at 1B. Just this year would be fine. Trade Smoak and Ackley along with Maurer and Beavan for help anywhere we can get it, of, catcher or starting pitcher.

  27. the tourist on December 12th, 2013 9:39 am

    I see Hart as playing mostly DH and 1B with a little bit of outfield. What I’m hoping for is a very good year from Hart and we can give him a QO which he will then reject. And all the while, the hope is for Montero to rake AAA pitching in 2014. And then when Hart leaves as a FA, Montero can step in at DH/1B/emergency catcher and replace Hart’s bat (especially vs. LHP). And then continue the sustained good drafting. I expect 2014 to be a somewhat competitive year for a Wild Card spot barring injury. But 2015 is the year I think they really go for it, which is why I’d be surprised if they trade Ackley/Franklin/Paxton this year. Give them another year to build value. Don’t sell low.

  28. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 9:52 am

    Cano is officially a Mariner (champagne cork pop!)

    Go M’s!

  29. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 10:12 am

    Other news– From the “Mariners front office are idiots, and in way over their head” department… (not disagreeing, mind you, just showing a point that says “dumb moves are part of the game”):

    The recent World Champion San Francisco Giants just signed Mike Morse for $6 million. Z-like move, to a National League team, no less. (Maybe it’s just to play DH in interleague games?)

  30. JasonJ on December 12th, 2013 10:13 am

    He’s got big-time power though.

  31. MrZDevotee on December 12th, 2013 10:18 am

    Yeah, but $6 million for the first two healthy weeks of the season, when he actually has power, seems like an overpay, doesn’t it? *laugh*

  32. lokiforever on December 12th, 2013 10:26 am

    Morse will have another break-out year. Inexplicable as it may seem, that’s my prediction.

  33. currcoug on December 12th, 2013 11:23 am

    Ditto…he will stay healthy.

    Can Guti?

  34. kinickers77 on December 12th, 2013 12:24 pm

    Ken Rosenthal tweets:

    #Mets’ next move: Trade for a young SS. #Dbacks have Owings, Gregorius, #Mariners have Miller, Franklin (more of a 2B). MORE

    #Mariners currently preoccupied with Price talks. #Mets feel they would have to overpay to get Drew; otherwise, he would go back to #RedSox.

    Hmmm, yes, ship Franklin in a deal for Price. Not Miller. If that falls through, what could the Mets offer for Franklin? Not much.

  35. Westside guy on December 12th, 2013 12:33 pm

    I’m not sure why people are assuming Morse will stay healthy when one of the dings against him is he’s been injured for significant periods over the past several seasons, with 2011 being the only one he managed to stay mostly healthy.

  36. TumwaterMike on December 12th, 2013 1:02 pm

    Hmmm, yes, ship Franklin in a deal for Price. Not Miller. If that falls through, what could the Mets offer for Franklin? Not much

    Maybe a Franklin for Zach Wheeler.

  37. bookbook on December 12th, 2013 1:09 pm

    The last several years have taught me to count on Peterson emerging as a star by 2015 at the latest.

    (Also, no chance DJ is pushing Seager to 1b. No one thinks he’ll make it at 3G defensively, as far as I can tell.)

  38. Westside guy on December 12th, 2013 1:12 pm

    Whether DJ can handle third base is irrelevant – Seager is one of the league’s better third basemen. The team is NOT going to shift a third baseman who’s provided 3.5 WAR each of the past two years!

  39. TumwaterMike on December 12th, 2013 1:42 pm

    I believe I said or vice versa.

  40. kinickers77 on December 12th, 2013 1:46 pm

    Ha, Franklin for Zach Wheeler! We can dream. I don’t think there’s any way they do that.

  41. mossi on December 12th, 2013 2:11 pm

    Did the Yankees replace Cano at second yet? maybe Franklin for Ichiro and a prospect.Ichiro could be a valuable pinch runner/5th OF Endy Chavez type. ….Perhaps this is irrational.

  42. the tourist on December 12th, 2013 2:19 pm

    “Did the Yankees replace Cano at second yet? maybe Franklin for Ichiro and a prospect.Ichiro could be a valuable pinch runner/5th OF Endy Chavez type. ….Perhaps this is irrational.”

    Only if you really, really, really want to sell low on Franklin. I think 6 more years of Franklin is worth a lot more than a single year of a washed up 5th OF who bats left-handed and “a prospect”.

    I wouldn’t even trade Franklin for Brett Gardener unless Gardener agreed to, like, a 4 year extention.

  43. mossi on December 12th, 2013 2:21 pm

    I hope Miller is not traded. Ackley seems less essential than Franklin, who can be frisky with a bat. Montero seems more like a batting practice catcher for a Mexican league team. Maybe somebody bites on an Ackley/Montero/Mauer failed-prospect package. A few more potato chips or a bag of used baseballs in return ?

  44. Dayve on December 12th, 2013 2:30 pm

    First off, MrZDevotee, time to hop off the bandwagon and change your moniker, I would think.

    Second, you guys NEVER liked Morse as a Mariner and were reluctant to acknowledge his value and success when he played elsewhere. Same goes for Wille B. Isn’t fair to claim Morse as a bust based on his health last season, any more than it is to be hopeful that Hart will replace him successfully.

  45. the tourist on December 12th, 2013 3:01 pm

    Morse’s bat was never the problem. Morse’s health, defense, and his cost in trade were the problem. You are misremembering.

  46. currcoug on December 12th, 2013 4:04 pm

    I like Franklin over Miller, and I like Jack’s statement about making them fight it out for the position. We will see if that actually occurs, or whether Franklin gets dealt.

  47. TumwaterMike on December 12th, 2013 5:40 pm

    It would’ve been kind of cool if Miller and Franklin had developed together like Trammel and Whitaker, but I’m not complaining that we got Cano.

  48. Dayve on December 12th, 2013 6:13 pm

    @the tourist

    You’re misreading. Meant that because of Morse’s health last season, he couldn’t be considered any kind of bust since he was unable to perform. It’s commonly inferred here that he’s not useful. My claim is he hasn’t gotten the chance to be.

  49. NODO Dweller on December 13th, 2013 12:56 am

    It’s not just last year that he was unable to perform.

    Michael Morse – career totals of 9 years, 573 games, and 4.0 WAR. Only 1 year of the nine he played more than ~100 games (2011), and that year accounts for 3.4 of his 4 career WAR. Missed significant chunks of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, and 2013 with injuries.

    Nice guy and a good hitter when healthy, but he’s almost in the Guti category of fragility and a butcher on D. And he cost arguably the best hitter on the 2012 roster to obtain via trade (especially if positionally adjusted). If that’s not a bust, not sure what is…

  50. SeattleSlew on December 13th, 2013 9:36 am

    Ubaldo Jimenez***

    C Zunino
    1B Smoak/Morrison
    2B Cano
    SS Miller
    3B Seager
    LF Hart
    Rf Saunders/Guti
    DH MICHAEL MORSE***/Guti/Morrison

    Not the greatest team but also not too shabby either and they don’t have to sign another hitter for a ridiculous amount of money. I think it is crucial that we have a legit CF to compensate for the other OFs. With any luck they could be the surprise team of 2014. One thing that worries me is the condition of the bullpen and the lack of concern by the FO.

    Now the question is, would the Mets include Lagares in a trade for Nick Franklin?

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