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Michael Morse signs, and the Giants swap defense for home runs

Is it worth it to have a bad glove in left if the player provides something the Giants wouldn't otherwise have? Dunno. Maybe. Probably not.

Harry How

Back in the days when Internet baseball nerds were even more obnoxious -- no, really, it's somehow true -- the Giants were morons. We were so, so sure the front office was archaic and out of touch. Get this, they thought defense mattered as much as offense, the weirdos.

They acquired Jose Vizcaino before 1997, and they played him, which was unforgivable (1997 WAR: 2.5). Then, as if to block Rich Aurilia on purpose, they got Rey Sanchez, who was the absolute worst. (1998 WAR: 2). And to make things worse, they signed Neifi Perez a couple years after that (2003 WAR: okay, that guy was awful).

The Giants were almost proto-WARriors. They probably weren't using internal WAR-like metrics, but they were roughly weighing the value created by good fielders against the liabilities of their bats, and they were doing a pretty good job of it. They put a premium on defense before the rest of us caught up.

They also started Glenallen Hill for most of 1997. So maybe this thesis could use some rejiggering.

But the point is that it's amusing to see the Giants punt defense in left field so consistently now. Pat Burrell worked; Aubrey Huff didn't. Brandon Belt was okay; Brett Pill was not. Xavier Nady, Mark DeRosa, Kensuke Tanaka ... really, they've had a lot of strangegloves out there.

When they finally found a defensive platoon that could be so good, it would make up for their offensive shortcomings, they punted defense again in search of dingers. Mike Morse is Glenallen Hill, right down to the light-tower abuse. So good luck with that, Giants.

Maybe we're all making too much of what Morse can't do, though. Like field. Or get on base. Or field. It's possible that the nerd pendulum is way over in the other direction now, and we're making quasi-stars out of players like Juan Lagares when we shouldn't be. Instead of laughing at players like Rey Sanchez, who were actually quite good, we're laughing at players like Morse. Maybe we shouldn't be.


Okay, I'll never stop laughing at that. But there's something to be said about the Giants' imbalanced lineup contributing to the team's weird offensive year. The Giants were fourth in the NL in wRC+ but 10th in runs. By most advanced metrics, they had a pretty good lineup. By runs scored, they weren't so hot. It's possible this has less to do with luck, and more to do with a natural consequence of punting power from several positions. I'm not smart enough to test that theory, but I don't think I'm the only one who's curious about it.

But here we are again, talking like Morse is a proven commodity with the bat, sizing up his defense like we know the offense is going to be there. He was terrible last year, and even in his best years, he was an inveterate hacker. He'll be 32 next year, and he's coming off a wrist injury. The last time the Giants signed a guy with a wrist injury, they paid $12 million for about six balls hit out of the infield.

Dingers are grand. But there are other ways for players to be valuable. And there are certainly a lot of ways they can be awful. I'm not optimistic about this one.

I'll embrace the risk, though, because this team has been feckless for a while, now. Heck, wind him up and let's see if he can hit 30 homers again. Could happen. And the auxiliary benefit of the move is the Giants have some decent outfield depth for the first time in a while. Blanco is a pretty good fourth outfielder, just as Juan Perez is almost an ideal fifth outfielder. If the Giants mix and match, this could work out.

It's not Nelson Cruz for five years. It's not Shin-Soo Choo for seven. It's not a three-year deal, and it's not Jeff Francoeur. Just think of all the ways it could be worse! As such, it's pretty harmless. Except for all the harm it could cause. But, dingers! I like those. Apparently, the Giants do, too. It's not the move I would have made, but it's not the move that makes me dust off the torchfork, either.