By Jason Shetler
From 2010 to 2012, Michael Morse was a very productive player offensively, as he posted an .857 OPS with an OPS+ of 130 for the Washington Nationals. After a down year with the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles in 2013, he bounced back in 2014 with the San Francisco Giants while helping them to a World Series championship. Last offseason, the Miami Marlins signed Morse to a two-year deal to be their first baseman. The Pirates were looking to upgrade the bench after the Corey Hart experiment failed miserably. A day after getting dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team trade, Morse was then acquired by the Pirates in exchange for Jose Tabata. Here are his numbers from the past couple seasons, as well as where he projects this year.
2014 (Giants): .279/.336/.475, 130 OPS+, 6.4% BB rate, 25.1% K rate, 0.9 WAR in 131 games
2015 (Marlins/Pirates): .231/.313/336, 80 OPS+, 9.0% BB rate, 29.7% K rate, -0.5 WAR in 98 games
2016 (FanGraphs): .253/.330/.375, 9.1% BB rate, 27.0% K rate, 0.2 WAR in 81 games
While the overall numbers for Morse last season don’t look good, he was much better coming over to the Pirates, as he slashed .275/.390/.391, and put up a 118 OPS+. Morse will split time at first base with John Jaso in 2016. For his career, he owns an .808 OPS against left-handed pitching. Going by the FanGraphs projection, Morse will sustain the same good walk rate he had last season.
My analysis: Michael Morse should give the Pirates a good veteran bat to face left-handers in this year’s first base platoon with John Jaso. Although Morse will be facing mostly southpaws, he can also be used off the bench versus right-handers in pinch-hit spots, as he owns a career .787 OPS against them. Morse’s strikeout rate is high, but his walk rate has remained good, so he’s not afraid to work a deep count.