(via SI)

Hey, here’s a weird coincidence/exactly what you’d expect: most teams who want to compete in 2015 already have good first basemen. Weird/duh! One team without a good option at first that would at least like to “compete” (with an emphasis on the sarcastic quotation marks) is the Miami Marlins. The Marlins apparently discussed a Morneau trade with the Rockies during the Winter Meetings, but nothing materialized. Rumors suggest that talks fizzled because the Rockies asked for either Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart in return for one year of Morneau. Alvarez and Cosart are both young, controlled in the long term, and good, whereas Morneau is only one of those things. Obviously, it wasn’t going to work. It’s probably fair to assume that the Rockies knew that, and that their offer was merely an opening salvo in the negotiations. So why did the Marlins walk away before the teams could find a deal that worked? Because of a dude named Michael Morse.

 

                       PA BB% K% OBP SLG wOBA wRC+

Morse     482 6.4 25.1 .336 .475 .355 133

Morneau 550 6.2 10.9 .364 .496 .373 123

(via Fangraphs)

Pretty danged close, right? Especially when you factor in Coors Hocus Pocus for Morneau and AT&T Reverse-Hocus Pocus for Morse. In a vacuum, Morneau would probably be considered more valuable by teams (unless a team greatly values Morse’s ability to lumber around in the outfield like ‘30s movie monster) because as the OBP. and K% indicate, he puts the ball in play more often. But if Morneau costs talent to acquire, and all Morse costs is money, that gap shrinks considerably.

And it’s not like Morse will cost a lot of money, Fangraphs crowdsourcing guesses 1/7 million, and MLBTR suggests 2/22 million. Given the market for offense we’ve seen already, it may be fair to assume his eventual contract will lean towards MLBTR’s figure, which still isn’t much. That high figure would seem to help Morneau’s market, however, as he’s owed just $6.75 million for 2015 (with a $9 million mutual option for 2016). And still, only one team can sign Morse, leaving a few options for the Rockies afterward.

The Marlins have been connected to Morse, so they may have completely moved on from Morneau, but if Morse’s asking price is too high they could re-engage with the Rockies. Morneau and Morse both fit the Marlins likely long term plan: acquire cheapish players who used to be very good and have names Miami-Dade county taxpayers will recognize. They appear to be the favorites for Morse, but if they miss on him, they could probably pry Morneau away for a close, low-ceiling starter prospect like Trevor Williams or Anthony DeScalfani, perhaps with a useful middle infield piece like Derek Dietrich thrown in.

The other likely potential landing spot is Seattle, where Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison were not very good last year at first base. The Mariners have a highly touted first base prospect in DJ Peterson, who is close, but uh, you only have to look at the first sentence of this paragraph to understand why the Mariners may not trust a highly touted first base prospect right out of the gate. Peterson’s presence probably does limit what they would be willing to give up, however. Dominic Leone is 22 years old and pitched 66 innings for the Mariners last year, he’s a dyed in the wool reliever, having never started a game in the minors. Those 60-ish innings would be easy enough for the Mariners to make up, and Morneau was worth twice as much bWar last year, but a young, controlled reliever is likely more help for the Rockies in the long term than Morneau.

A fun dark-horse for Morneau might be the Twins. With Joe Mauer an everyday first baseman, the Twins have a giant hole at DH, the addition of Morneau would allow for some flexibility and more rest days for Mauer. The Twins seem unlikely to break through in the AL Central, with all four other teams in better position to compete, but they’ve got a better chance with Morneau than Kennys Vargas. Additionally, ticket sales have been stagnant at Target Field, and reuniting the M&M boys would definitely help in that department. A straight-up swap for Kurt Suzuki would be unlikely but interesting, as it would give the Rockies a true catcher and allow the Twins to give at-bats to Josmil Pinto. Or the Rockies may be interested in a project arm like Lewis Thorpe or Felix Jorge.


At the end of the day, it would be no great sin for the Rockies to hold onto Morneau, he’s a productive player on a good contract. But it is very unlikely Morneau will be part of any Rockies team that seriously contends, and as the reigning NL batting champion, this offseason presents the best opportunity to sell high on him.

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