2015 Pittsburgh Pirates Gradeout – Michael Morse


The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player. Today’s entry: Michael Morse

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One of the underrated and under-appreciated acquisitions by Neal Huntington last season was the pickup of Michael Morse. Morse was acquired from the Dodgers in a trade that sent Jose Tabata to Los Angeles. At the time, the trade seemed to be a salary dump for both teams and a change of scenery for two struggling players. Tabata was stuck in the minors after not being able to secure the fourth outfield spot on the major league roster while Morse had struggled with the Marlins and was sent packing to the Dodgers in a July 30th trade before being acquired by the Pirates. Morse was owed just under $3 million for the duration of the 2015 season and is on the hook for $8 million in 2016. Essentially, Huntington was giving Tabata a new place to potentially be put to use while hoping that Morse could be a right-handed platoon bat opposite Pedro Alvarez at first base.

Morse had struggled with the Marlins after signing a two-year, $16 million deal with them in the offseason, to the tune of a .231/.276/.313 line while striking out 55 times to just 12 walks. When he came over to the Pirates, he didn’t make an immediate major impact. He was used sparingly in spot starts at first base and as a pinch-hitter. It’s hard to be successful in such limited playing time, but Morse managed to do so. When all was said and done, Morse had only accounted for 69 at-bats, but had made the most of them. He increased his line to .275/.390/.391 and lowered his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 55:12 to 21:11. While his power was still down overall in 2015, the one home run he hit with the Pirates was a grand slam. He didn’t make any errors in the field, and he was a pretty good defender overall for his size. In fact, one could make the argument that if Clint Hurdle wanted defense over offense in the Wild Card game, Morse would have been as good of an option as Sean Rodriguez at first. He ended the year worth 0.2 wins above replacement during his time with the Pirates versus -0.5 wins above replacement with the Marlins.

Morse had a down year in 2015 with the Marlins. He didn’t get the playing time that he had gotten with the Giants in 2014, and with less playing time came less opportunity for consistency. Is he worth the contract he signed with the Marlins? As of now, definitely not. And his performance will be weighted against that contract. With limited playing time it was always going to be difficult for him to be worth that in 2015. But his usage with the Pirates wasn’t Morse’s decision, and he made the most out of the playing time he got.

Michael Morse was a decent, under-appreciated pickup by Neal Huntington during the 2015 season. He wasn’t worth the contract that the Marlins gave him and that the Pirates picked up, but he performed well in the limited playing time he received in Pittsburgh. When understanding that he was a platoon bat whose role was always going to be limited, it’s fair to give Morse a “B” for his time with the Pirates.. 1B. Pittsburgh Pirates. MICHAEL MORSE. B

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