2014 Statistics: 482 PA, .279/.336/.479, 16 HR, 133 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR
2015 Age: 33
Position: Corner outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter
Depending on your perspective, the Yankees are either set at right field, first base and designated hitter in 2015 or they have gaping holes at all three positions. They do have players penciled in at each spot - Carlos Beltran for right, Mark Teixeira for first and Alex Rodriguez as the DH - but those guys are a combined 110 years old and together they've appeared in just under 45 percent of possible games over the past two seasons. The idea that all - or any - will be healthy, consistent contributors throughout next year is borderline preposterous.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Beltran, Teixeira and Rodriguez are set to earn a combined $57.5 million in 2015 - $63.5 mil if A-Rod passes Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. That makes it fairly unlikely that the club will go out and sign a new starter to replace any of them. As an alternative they could look for a player capable of plugging in at all three slots, and in that search, Michael Morse could be an intriguing name.
Morse, who'll turn 33 in March, has been a bona fide power threat for most of his ten-year major league career. That's a dying breed in a sport increasingly dominated by pitching. He's compiled a career slash line of .281/.335/.473 to go with a pretty ISO of .193. As a right-handed hitter with a lifetime OPS of .821 and a wRC+ of 124 versus left-handed pitchers, Morse would be a balancing addition to a Yankee lineup whose better bats are mostly lefty.
Morse's spray charts show a lot of opposite field power, which is always a useful tool for a righty swinger in Yankee Stadium. In 2012 and 2013 the majority of his home runs went to right field, and though he pulled more of his dingers in 2014, he continued to hit plenty of soaring flies to right, several of which would have gone out in the Bronx.
On the downside, Morse isn't exactly patient at the plate. He struck out in more than a quarter of his at bats in 2014 while walking at a modest rate of 6.4 percent. He has experience at first base and both corner outfield positions, but his defense leaves much to be desired, especially in the outfield where he has a career UZR/150 of -19.2, including a mark of -25.4 in 2014. He also has an extensive injury history that's allowed him to eclipse 500 plate appearances just once in his career. He spent time on the DL in each of the past three seasons with back, quad and oblique injuries and he had arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist during the 2013-14 off-season.
After a down 2013 in Seattle and Baltimore, Morse played last season on a one-year $6 million contract from the Giants. In his second shot at free agency, this time buoyed by a strong regular season and a solid 6 for 22 playoff run highlighted by a game-tying bomb late in Game 5 of the NLCS, he'll seek out the first multi-year guarantee of his career. Unlike fellow outfield/DH type free agents like Nelson Cruz and Michael Cuddyer, Morse is qualifying offer and draft pick compensation free, which will certainly inflate his stock.
The two-year, $16 million agreement that Marlon Byrd reached with the Phillies a year ago could be a good model for Morse's free agent value, but he may have his sights set on something more lucrative - like the $21 million pact Cuddyer snagged from the Mets this month, or the three years and $30 mil Billy Butler just got from the A's.
The Yankees already brought back Chris Young, which makes the signing of any other outfielder highly unlikely. But the thought of Young in an everyday role in case of an injury is wholly unappetizing, and a hybrid outfielder/first baseman - one who can actually hit - brings a different kind of value. If the bidding stays on the low end, the Yankees would be wise to show some interest in Morse. He might prefer to sign with a team where he fills a single everyday role, but playing time in New York should be plentiful behind the ancient wonders of the world that represent a third of the Yankee lineup.