The quote of the year:
If you didn't want to go to the Pirates, Matt, you shouldn't have stunk it up in your last eight starts. Enjoy that super-stellar defense you seem to be expecting.
After a complete game win over Toronto on June 11, Morris's ERA was at 2.56. June 11! The progression since:
6/17 - 4 ip, 9 hits, 8 earned runs (maybe we can still get Adam Jones)
6/23 - 5.2 ip, 13 hits, 4 earned runs (maybe we can still get Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians)
6/29 - 7 ip, 10 hits, 1 earned run (how silly it was to doubt Morris. Adam Jones it is...)
7/5 - 6 ip, 7 hits, 6 earned runs (uh, maybe the Mariners could be tricked into giving us Jeff Clement)
7/14 - 5 ip, 8 hits, 6 earned runs (Wladimir Balentien is still realistic, right?)
7/19 - 4.2 ip, 12 hits, 5 earned runs (Maybe the M's could trade us Wladimir's less-talented brother, Vilton)
7/24 - 6 ip, 8 hits, 4 earned runs (This 27-year-old Jimerson kid is hitting well in AA...maybe if the Giants eat 1/2 the salary....)
7/29 - 7 ip, 13 hits, 6 earned runs (Maybe we can just leave him in another team's hotel room -- a Gideon Morris, stuffed in a drawer)
45.1 innings. 80 hits. 40 earned runs. All when the scouts started to sniff around. That's a special kind of collapse.
The prevailing wisdom now is that Sabean waited too long to trade Morris. It's a common refrain here, and Tim Kawakami drops an I-told-you-so in his column. I disagree with this theory. In June, Sabean decided to hold on to Morris until closer to the deadline for better leverage. The three possible outcomes:
- Morris continues to pitch like an All-Star, and there is an absolute frenzy for him at the deadline.
- Morris pitches like the typical Matt Morris -- a 4.00/5.00 ERA guy -- for a month, but his early success still keeps his ERA down and his price tag up.
- Morris completely wets the bed. Like, completely. He has a string of starts as bad as any in recent Giants' history. His contract goes from reasonable to pair of cement shoes in 40 days.
The first one wasn't likely, but the third one really wasn't likely. The middle one was the smart bet, and the Giants probably would have had more leverage in that scenario than if they had traded him in mid-June. In the middle of June, teams are still trying to figure things out. Is Jeff Weaver back on track? Is Bartolo Colon really done? Nah, he'll bounce back, right? If you want to trade Johan Santana in June...leverage schmeverage, you're going to get the proper value. But there were obvious questions hanging over Morris. Is he really a 2.50 ERA pitcher? Even the worst GMs in baseball wouldn't have bought that. And since they had another month to see if Morris really was that good, why would they dump crazy value on the Giants in mid-June? So expect the second scenario, and hope you win the lottery with the first.
It's hard to call this trade an unqualified win for the Giants because we don't know what else was on the table. If the Giants kicked in a few million, would the other team have parted with Wladimir Balentien or Steven Pearce? If so, that would have been a much better gamble. Still, all things being equal, the Giants made out like bandits. The difference between Morris and Pat Misch wasn't a $13M difference. Now that money can be spent on Eric Byrnes's seventh year option.
If Rajai Davis or the player to be named later turn out to be any kind of productive, that's just gravy. It's tough to write that after we were dreaming of a real prospect just a few weeks ago, but not as tough as it would have been to watch Morris pitch for the next year-and-a-half.