The San Francisco Giants signing of free agent Michael Morse at the 2013 Winter Meetings this past week is part of a very familar pattern for the team and for General Manager Brian Sabean.
The world of the corporate foil lies between obsequiousness and obsession. And so Brian Sabean has careened between adhering to the Giants ownership's primary focus on the bottom-line and to his personal obsessions in signing a series of over-the-hill MLB players.
In the early 2000s Sabean's big obsession was New York Mets third baseman Edgardo Alfonso. The NL's top third baseman was deep under Sabean's skin and he wanted Alfonso in orange and black in the worst way.
When Alfonso became a free agent at the end of the the 2002 season, Sabean signed him to a three year $18 million deal to play for the San Francisco Giants. Which was a lot of money at the time.
The trouble was the 29 year old Alfonso's reign as a top NL run producer was over. His eight year run with the Mets and the .812 OPS he put up in New York abruptly came to an end in the roomy confines of Pacific Bell Park.
After Alfonso's dismal 2005 season in San Francisco (109 games, .672 OPS) Sabean traded him to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. For yet another player that Sabean had been fixated on for years: Steve Finley.
After a number of attempts Sabean finally got Finley when he was 41 years old and promptly paid him $7 million and put him in center field. During his single year as a Giant Steve Finley batted an anemic .246 and was quickly and quietly cut loose at the end of the season.
This week Brian Sabean signed yet another player he has been strangely obsessed with for the past several years, Michael Morse. Now it's Morse's turn to bring the baggage and lowered expectations that Giant fans have come to accept and for some reason get excited about the past ten years.
After the disastrous pairing of Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco in left field in 2013 what the San Francisco Giants desperately needed in left was a run-producing power hitter who was at least an average defender. Even a large number of people in Iceland were aware of that.
In 2013 San Francisco Giant left fielders were 30th out of 30 MLB teams in OPS at .651. Giant left fielders produced the fewest home runs of any MLB team with five. Yes, I said five. Home runs. All year.
SF left fielders were also last in MLB runs scored with 56, and last in extra base hits with 34. I understand they also refused to help older persons cross busy intersections during high traffic periods and rarely bought Girl Scout cookies.
So who is Michael Morse?
Well, in 2014 he will be a thirty-two year old left fielder who had three separate injuries in 2013 and is known as a terrible defensive outfielder. Specifically, Morse does not track balls very well and when he gets to them he has a poor and inaccurate arm.
Wow, that sounds a lot like the guy we had last season, Andres Torres.
Over the next few months you will hear Morse frequently be described in the San Francisco sports media as a "power hitter". But in his nine year career he has only had one actual "power" year: in 2011 for the Washington Nationals he hit 31 homers, 36 doubles, drove in 95 runs, and put up an excellent .910 OPS.
In his other eight MLB seasons Michael Morse hit fifteen or more home runs only twice (15 in 2010 and 18 in 2012). In 2013 with Seattle and Baltimore Morse played in 88 games with 312 ABs and batted .215 with a .651 OPS and a startlingly poor .270 on base percentage.
The "power-hitting" Morse's second biggest career RBI year was in 2012 when he drove in 62.
Defensively, Baseball-Reference.com measures "Rtot"-- the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made. In 2013 Morse was rated -15 runs; in his "power" year of 2011 he was rated -11 runs.
The reality check? The San Francisco Giants raided their petty cash fund and will pay Morse a mere $6 million in 2014. Rather than get the actual run producing power hitter the team so desperately needs, Giants fans can look forward to yet another "cross-your-fingers-and-hope" player signing.
Instead of assessing players in terms of trending and advanced statistical analysis, and building interlocking contributors to a 25-man team, the San Francisco Giants front office is consistently drawn to a series of flawed players who they hope will somehow "get back" to some previous good performance year in their careers.
So let's take a few steps back and see exactly where we're at.
If Michael Morse exceeds expectations for the San Francisco Giants in 2014 and drives in, say, 80 runs that will only be 28 more runs than the team's left fielders drove in last season. And that's not factoring in Morse's poor defense and the metrics that measure a player's actual offensive performance.
At the same time, Giant pitching appears to be on the brink of tanking again in 2014, so those 28 "extra" runs won't begin to make a difference in last season's 16 games out of 1st place finish.
And the NL West isn't just about the Dodgers anymore. Thanks to the Mark Trumbo signing this week the Arizona Diamondbacks are set to mount a big challenge in the West with talented young pitching and actual power bats in their line-up.
So, watch out San Diego Padres because we're coming after you in 2014. And this time it's personal.
Except for those pesky World Championships, the Giants, and Brian Sabean, are way behind the curve. How did Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell work out in 2010? Or Pagan and Scutaro in 2012? Do you think $10 mill for Rajai Davis is a smart move? I don't. Gloss over the fact that this team has a lot of homegrown talent, and is coming off 2 world chamionships, and there's really no reason to be so bitchy.
Am I happy with the moves so far?I guess. Nothing earthshatteing, but that's the point. Am I glad they didn't throw $300 illion at Robinson Cano? Or Choo? Hell yes. Didn't you learn anything from Aaron Rowandand Barry Zito? There are a lot of teams (Angels, Rangers, Dodgers, etc) who threw truckloads of money around, and what did they get? Bupkis. Boston jettisoned their fat contracts in 2012 (thanks, Magic!), and made some smart (relatively), cheap signings, and look at what they did. The St Louis Cards aren't building their success by signing every high-priced FA that floats around the baseball world. Get a grip.
Good stuff as usual. Trading Wheeler not only cost us a great young pitcher, although we were told other pitchers of similar quality were ready, it also cost us the ability to let Lincecum go, and to then sign a good free agent. Could even have let us trade another pitcher for a player. My number one question though is why has dummy Sabean continued to draft weak, position players the last three years, rather than pitching which lets us trade pitching for position players?
This article makes some true statements but overstates its case. The Giants were extremely worn out last year in both the pitching and hitting deparmtents because of two short off seasons in three years. Their pitching and hitting (without Morse) is likely to be substantially better. Morse primarily gives a right-handed power option against lefties. If he stinks in the outfield and does not make up for it at the plate, he will be replaced by Blanco (who plays a lot better with substantial rest).
I think the underlying concern the brass was really worried about was giving up that damn 14th round pick. The debate s/b whether their strategy was correct or not. Supposably this draft has a very strong pitching emphasis to it and this is what SF is looking at. Because of last years performance of the team and the glaring need to fill a very deep hole in LF they should have given up the draft choice and selected a blue chip LF who is an all around athlete and there was definitely selections out there that would of fit the bill. Overall I am very disappointed with the Giant organization in how they went about trying to improve this ball club.
I don't know why I keep reading the articles on this site. Theyre never constructive; but consistently whiny. The giants were a 91 win team when pagan was in the lineup last year. Sorry that gregor blanco doesn't look fancy on the back of a trading card, but the fact of the matter is that his speed, obp, and defense made him a 2war player in 2013. Take any combination of a healthy pagan, posey, and vogelsong; and combine it with a full season of productive belt and cain, the additions (regardless of how limited) of hudson and morse, and a contract year for both morse and sandoval - and the giants will again compete for the nl west title with the dodgers and the dreaded diamondbacks (somehow your assessment of the diamondbacks trade for trumbo was positive?). I'm grateful the giants aren't dishing out 150m for 30 year olds. Sometimes its not who you're replacing but who you're replacing them with:
Kickham - vogelsong
Zito - hudson
Mijares - affeldt
Kontos - casilla
Torres - morse
Kierschnik - pagan
My predictions: giants compete for the west in 2014 and I continue to read these whiny articles.
Do you really think Morse is the answer in LF even in the short term? I don't. That is what the article is about and what my previous comments are suggesting. Plugging holes and hoping for the best is stupid and you need to look long term and we don't have anybody coming up to fill the deep deep hole. Choo would have been a good option long term and don't tell me we do not have the money.
Did you think Burrell was the answer? Of course not. Or Huff? What about Cody Ross? Sabes has stated categorically that he isn't going to lose a draft pick. Which he would in getting Choo. Sure, it ain't my money, but he wants $20 mill a years for 7 years? [Screw] that. We just got out from under the Zito contract. Why tie a brick around our necks again? Look at what all those deals the Dodgers did got them. Or Texas, or the Angels. Nothing but onerous contracts that they will have to dump at some point in the near future. Boston did the right thing in DUMPING those salaries. THEN they were able to move forward prudently. Besides, there's still time to trade Sandoval and Affeldt for A-Rod.
I kid, I kid.
Two things to add to the discussion.
First, Brian Kenny of MLBTV's "Clubhouse Confidential" did a long term study of high end, "big" MLB contracts-- more than 5 years, contracts worth tens of millions of dollars.
Kenny did this to develop a five point template to judge if any potential high end contract is likely to be good or bad for the team buying.
In doing the research Kenny found that about 50% of those big contracts work out very well for the clubs involved, and about 50% don't work out well for the clubs involved.
So for every anecdotal list of "bad" large contracts, there's an equal number that worked out great. Miguel Cabrera (8 yrs/$152.3m), Felix Hernandez (7 yr/$175m), Buster Posey (9 yrs/$167m), Adrian Gonzalez (7 yrs/$154m) and so on.
Second, it's nice to be concerned about how much the Giants are able to spend on player contracts, and I'm sure they really appreciate it when anyone on the outside says the team can't (and shouldn't) spend more money.
But there's no need to worry about the Giants' so-called "budget" and how much profit the ownership group gets to split up every year. They're doing just great and they don't need anyone to watch out for them.
Giants primary owner Charles Johnson could buy and sell the LA Dodgers ownership group in one afternoon. Johnson is listed in Forbes.com as the 74th richest person in America-- worth a cool $5.4 billion. Various other members of the ownership group also have seriously deep pockets.
The decision to spend or not to spend money by the Giants organization has nothing to do with available money, and everything to do with revenues being higher than expenditures every year. Because that means even more profits.
Would you rather eat 11 mill or 250 mill? They are ALL considered good signings because they were instrumental in the Giants winning the World Series. Seriously? 2-3 year deals are awesome. Even still, 3/45 mill for Carlos Beltran? He's 36. No thanks. Look at the Angels and Albert Pujols 10 year $250 million deal. THAT'S a shitty deal. Unless they actually win something. Or Choo at 7/$130 mill? Most of these big FA signings are guys that are guys that already did their best work out there. The Ellsbury deal is an absolute joke. The Yanks ain't winning jack yet they are paying that plus McCann 5/85 mill? They won't even make the playoffs and they act like they are a player or 2 from the WS.
Look at how St. Louis built their team. Strong drafts and a FEW FA signings. Not throwing truckloads of money at every Tom, Dick, and Harry FA out there,
Pagan was considered an overpay because he gets hurt all the time (which he consistently did when with the Mets). Granted Pagan played great in 2012, but he was hurt most of last year. Scutaro was considered a risk because he is old, and that certainly showed last year in his poor fielding. The Giants are going to need a new 2B before Scutaro's contract is up to improve their fielding. As for Pence, all we know about him so far is that he can play well in short bursts when he is on a contract run. I don't understand how you can say these are good contracts when they haven't played out. Sabean is no genius, by any means. Yes he got one good year out of Huff, but then signed two more years and he stunk.
@maxwell623 @UncaChucksNinerPage Sabean has consistently proven that he's one step ahead of the rest of the market. Look no further than the the Scutaro, Pagan, and Pence deals which, at the time, were all considered overpays but ultimately appear to be under market value. He's done a nice job of avoiding overpays at market premiums. Man, I sure am glad Josh Hamilton and BJ Upton aren't San Francisco Giants right now.
My point is pay the money lose the draft pick and at least give yourself and the fans a CHANCE to win the WS EVERY YEAR with a proven veteran with consistent numbers over a period of time that has a fighting chance in driving in runs, getting on base, good defense etc. Morse is a one tool player, so called power hitter which he was for one year out of 9 seasons as a pro. What are we going to do in 2015 to fix the problem in LF. Morse just by his overall ML stats will be gone and we will be going through the same exercise. The fans have paid good money for a long time to see the best 25 players on the field so being that the Giants are in the top 5 of MLB for earning power, spend the damn money and try to appreciate the fans now and long term so we can go to sleep at night and wake up the next day feeling confident we are going to win that day instead of might seeing a baseball go over the fence that might mean something or not.