One of the most repeated phrases in baseball writing this offseason has been to the effect of: “the historically bad free agent class”. In this instance repetition doesn’t mean exaggeration. It really is that thin of a market. That is, unless your team needs a first baseman or a designated hitter. There are a bevy of options in that case, ranging from the expensive (see: Encarnacion, Edwin) to the flyer deals.
A possible second tier target is Logan Morrison, who figures to come at a more reasonable price than Encarnacion and company. According to Jeff Passan, his market is heating up. A deal could come down the pipeline soon. Does he make sense for the Yankees? That’s a question worth a closer look.
2016 Statistics: 107 G, 398 PA, .238/.319/.414, 14 HR, 43 RBI, 101 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
Age on Opening Day 2017: 29
Position: First base/Designated hitter
Morrison owns a career .245/.325/.416 slash line, accompanied by 84 home runs. That’s split across parts of seven seasons with the Marlins, Mariners, and Rays. His best season came in Seattle in 2014. That year he put up a .262/.315/.420 with 11 home runs, good enough for 111 wRC+ and 1.1 fWAR. His stay in Seattle was short lived, however, as he signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $4.2 million prior to the 2016 season.
When the Rays brought in Morrison, they probably expected a surge in offense. After all, he would be escaping the cavernous confines of Safeco Field and moving into the hitter-friendly Tropicana Field. Instead, he took a step backward. He had an historically awful start to the season, too. From Opening Day to May 15th he mustered a comically bad .119/.221/.143 slash line with just two extra-base hits - a pair of doubles. For comparison’s sake, Chase Headley hit .200/.289/.270 across that same period. Those are the kind of numbers that usually get a player sent to Triple-A.
Tampa stuck with Morrison, however, and they were rewarded for their patience. He rebounded rather nicely to hit .275/.350/.498 with 14 home runs (131 wRC+) the rest of the way. His underlying numbers support this turnaround, too.
As the season went on, his groundball percentage dropped as his hard contact rate rose. That’s a good combination. It suggests that the dreadful first month of 2016 was just an abnormality. He demonstrated sustained success as the season progressed.
Unfortunately, Morrison suffered a torn left wrist sheath in September. He underwent surgery to repair it and was given a twelve-week rehab schedule. Although described as a minimal injury, this raises some red flags. Wrist injuries are tricky. They take a long time to fully recover and tend to sap a player of his power. Think Mark Teixeria circa 2013-2014. Any team interested in Morrison should keep that in mind.
There’s also the matter of defense. Morrison is a first baseman in name only. He consistently grades below average with the glove and fits better as a designated hitter. He could pass in a pinch, but we’re talking about somebody who would make Lyle Overbay look like a defensive wizard. Morrison has more experience at first base than Matt Holliday, and in that sense he could serve as Greg Bird’s back up. Given his poor fielding numbers, however, it’s not an appealing option.
It’s also worth mentioning that Morrison has a reputation for being a bit of a headache. A prolific tweeter, he found himself in hot water in 2013 for sending a misogynistic tweet about Rachel Ray. He followed that up with a homophobic tweet to a fan in response to his trade to Seattle. For what it’s worth, Morrison quit Twitter after the summer of 2015, claiming the website has “run its course”. The Yankees have taken character and make up very seriously in the past. While the front office has seemed to ease off of that priority in recent years, Morrison’s reputation still could loom over a signing decision.
Morrison showed signs of life this summer, and at age 29, figures to be entering his prime. His wrist injury and defensive limitations, however, really hamper his attractiveness. Plus, the Holliday signing should take the Yankees out of the running. They already have a better, albeit older, alternative on the roster. Morrison will find a new home soon, but it probably won’t be in the Bronx.