When taken at face value, Michael Morse's one-year, $6 million deal with the Giants has been an incredible steal. Even with his mid-season offensive fade, season-long defensive troubles and nagging injuries, Morse has filled a positional void in left field, something the Giants badly needed.
Left field was indeed a complete black hole for San Francisco last year, and it's hard to imagine that the team would be in its current position without Morse's hot bat to open up the season. But for a number of reasons, re-signing Morse this winter makes little sense for the Giants.
The obvious reason is that Morse simply isn't built to play in the outfield at any ballpark, much less on the overly expansive AT&T Park grass.
Even with Gregor Blanco around to replace Morse in the late innings, the latter's defense was so poor this season that it has even arguably overshadowed his offensive production. Had Morse kept up the numbers he posted in April and May (.932 and .919 OPS, respectively), this would be a different story. But his regression at the plate makes it very difficult to overlook his defense.
At age 32, Morse was statistically one of the worst fielders in baseball this year. FanGraphs estimates he cost the Giants just under 18 runs with his defense, and after watching him play in the field, that seems conservative. (That total would jump much higher if Morse hadn't missed so much time.) By the end of whatever contract he'll sign this offseason, Morse's defense will almost certainly be even worse as he hits his mid-30s; it seems foregone that he'll sign with an American League team.
Morse has been "less bad" at first base, and he could settle in there eventually. But playing him at first on a regular basis would require shifting Brandon Belt to the outfield, an experiment that has yielded mediocre results and should only be repeated if absolutely necessary.
Alas, not everything happens as it should. Every team is guilty of signings that don't make much sense at first but are understandable when given some thought, like Tim Lincecum's two-year, $35 million deal. But then there are contracts like the one the Giants gave first baseman Aubrey Huff after the 2010 season, when the nostalgia of a World Series victory overrode the logic (or lack therof) of a contract extension.
Coming on the heels of Huff's huge contributions to a surprise World Series-winning squad, the Giants dished out $22 million to their first baseman—money that would have been better spent elsewhere. Needless to say, Huff didn't come close to earning his money and eventually retired after the Giants declined his option following the 2012 season.
It's easy to look at the Huff deal in hindsight and talk about how silly it was. But if the Giants draw from that contract and see the similarities in possibly re-signing Morse, they might make the wise decision and let their left fielder head elsewhere.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean is the longest tenured GM in the game for a reason, and his teams have found a lot of success because of his penchant for re-signing, well, just about everyone.
That's often great for the fans and, in most cases, the team itself. But at times, loyalty can get the best of Sabean—and that could happen again this offseason with Morse.
Of course, it's not quite as simple as saying "Morse should go because he's old and bad at defense." As we saw with the Yoenis Cespedes-Jon Lester trade earlier this year, a player's value on the field isn't the only point to consider; his presence in the clubhouse can be almost as important.
Even without spending time in the Giants dugout, it's clear to an outsider how much Morse means to the team off the field. Everyone in the Giants clubhouse seems to love Morse, and Morse seems to love everyone in the Giants clubhouse.
Losing him might be a bit of a blow to the team dynamic, and fans would surely be disappointed. But logic has to take precedence here, and Morse's hitting simply isn't enough at this point to atone for his defense.