Throws: Left – Bats: Left
Born: August 25, 1987 (Age 30)
2017 Stats: .246/.353/.516, 149 G, 512 AB, 38 HR, 85 RBI, 135 OPS+, 3.6 bWAR
With the news that GM Sandy Alderson was unimpressed with the six-week look at top prospect Dominic Smith, the Mets have been rumored to be checking in on free agents with experience playing both corner outfield and first base. With the team potentially flirting with an eight man bullpen to open the season, that leaves one less roster spot for a position player, making the versatility of whoever the team signs or trades for that much more important.
Thirty-year-old Logan Morrison is one potential fit.
Drafted in the 22nd-round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the then Florida Marlins, Morrison put together his finest season of his eight-year career in 2017. The left-handed slugger posted career highs in home runs (38), RBI (85), walks (81), SLG (.516), OPS (.868), and wRC+ (130) with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Morrison held his own at first in ’17, checking in at roughly average with 1 defensive run saved (DRS) and 1.2 ultimate zone rating (UZR). He does have experience playing both outfield corners, however, Morrison hasn’t spent substantial time at either position since 2014 (70.2 innings). In addition, you won’t mistake Morrison for a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, as his defensive metrics rate far from favorable.
Morrison came up as a first baseman in the Marlins’ system, however, was moved to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup. Morrison has stated in the past that he is far more comfortable at first, and it shows. From 2010-12, Morrison played in 240 games in the outfield, posting a combined DRS of -32 and a -27 UZR. During that span, only Matt Kemp (-39.6) and Carlos Quentin (-32.5) posted worse UZR among all outfielders with minimum 2000 innings played.
While the Mets are looking to prioritize defense moving forward, they’ll also need to fill the missing power lost by trades of veterans Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, and Jay Bruce. Not to mention Michael Conforto, who could possibly miss the start of the 2018 regular season due to his shoulder surgery this past September. Morrison certainly intrigues in the power department, as his .270 ISO was good for 11th best in all of baseball last season.
While some will say Morrison’s ’17 season was a potential fluke, as his previous career high in home runs was 23 back in 2011 with the Marlins, it’s important to note that Morrison seemed to have invested himself in the fly ball revolution taking place in baseball. Morrison posted a fly ball rate of 46.2 percent in ’17, up 11.5 percentage points from 2016. That in turn helped produce his best HR/FB ratio of his career at 22.5 percent, good for 19th best in all of baseball and ahead of such sluggers as Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jay Bruce.
There are several teams looking to add a first baseman this winter, as the Red Sox have already contacted Morrison’s representatives to set up a meeting. Among free agent first baseman, Morrison is among the top in fWAR (2nd behind Hosmer), ISO (2nd behind Duda at .270), and first in BB % (13.5 percent). With the Rays not extending a qualifying offer to Morrison, an interested team won’t have to worry about surrendering a draft pick or international money upon signing.
Having just turned 30 at the end of August and coming off his finest season of his career, I’d envision Morrison landing a three-year, $30-33 million contract.
With a limited budget to spend this offseason, I believe the Mets shy away from a long-term contract for a first baseman. Alderson recently called out Dominic Smith, stating that Smith didn’t win the first base job in September and that the 22-year-old will need to be “careful” in his conditioning going forward. This seems to indicate that Smith certainly isn’t guaranteed a role on this team, however, the message from Alderson will hopefully resonate with Smith and have him head into spring training in peak shape.
With MMO’s Minor League Player of the Year, Peter Alonso showcasing raw power while looking to work on his defense at first this winter, I don’t foresee Alderson giving a multi-year deal out to for a first baseman. Not to mention, if the Mets are indeed looking to add a first baseman that can play the outfield, adding a guy like Morrison might be counterproductive, given that it’s been nearly three years since he played more than 50 innings in the outfield, all while posting negative marks in DRS and UZR.
If the Mets are looking for an inexpensive first baseman to have on the roster for a year, I’d circle back with old friend Lucas Duda and look to bring him back into the fold on a one-year deal, who could platoon with Wilmer Flores. If Morrison offered a bit more versatility in the outfield, he would be of more value to the Mets.