Morse excited to officially join Giants
Right-handed slugger jumped at opportunity to play in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO -- Earlier this offseason, when Giants manager Bruce Bochy imagined how he wanted his 2014 lineup to look, he pictured Michael Morse playing left field.
When Morse entered free agency and envisioned what team he wanted to join, he pondered how he'd look in a Giants uniform.
The pairing of Morse and the Giants became official Tuesday when he signed a one-year, $6 million contract. Though free-agent deals are typically hailed by both sides, Morse and Bochy sounded especially pleased to have found each other.
"This is the guy I really wanted," said Bochy, who conveyed his sentiments to general manager Brian Sabean and assistant GM Bobby Evans when they began considering candidates to upgrade left field. Bochy managed Morse during a Major League All-Stars' five-game trip to Taiwan following the 2011 season. Said Bochy, "I told Brian and Bobby, 'I know he's coming off some injuries, but when he's healthy, he's a presence in the lineup."
Morse, 31, related that he was thrilled when his agents, the Levinson brothers, informed him that the Giants were among his suitors. Morse said that "quite a few" teams had inquired about him, but learning of San Francisco's interest truly stoked his imagination.
"That really sparked a light to go off in my head, and that was something I actually thought about," Morse said on a conference call with reporters. When one of Morse's agents observed that the Giants seemed like a good fit, he readily agreed.
"I thought the same thing," Morse said. Invoking the Giants' World Series triumphs in 2010 and 2012, Morse noted, "As a player, your goal is to win and win a World Series. What other team would a guy want to play for, especially with 'Boch' as the manager?"
The fairytale has a chance to come true if Morse remains healthy. From 2010-12 with the Washington Nationals, he compiled a .296 batting average with a .516 slugging percentage and totaled 64 homers. He especially thrived in 2011, hitting .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs.
Last season, however, Morse appeared in only 88 games with Seattle and Baltimore while enduring a fractured right pinkie, a strained right quadriceps and a wrist ailment that required arthroscopic surgery in October. He batted a meager .215 with 13 home runs and 27 RBIs.
"I started off feeling great," said Morse, who batted .293 with six homers and nine RBIs in his first 10 games with Seattle. Then he sustained the pinkie injury when Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers hit him with a 95-mph fastball. Morse explained that he began compensating for his injured right hand by taxing his left hand while swinging the bat. His left wrist started aching, and it worsened one day when he jammed it as he slid into second base.
With two months remaining before Giants position players report to Spring Training, Morse declared himself "100 percent healthy" and "restriction-free." He acknowledged that he might back off his workouts slightly to insure that he arrives at camp physically whole and ready to contribute. The Giants sorely lacked offense last season from their left fielders, who combined to rank last in the Majors in runs (56), homers (five) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.651).
"Everybody on the field has done something spectacular on their careers," Morse said of his new teammates. "I think you look at the lineup and there's really no holes."
Bochy said that Gregor Blanco, who started a team-high 50 games in left field last season, will receive ample playing time as San Francisco's top outfield reserve. Bochy added that Morse, who has appeared at 130 games at first base during his nine-year career, could give Brandon Belt an occasional rest.
Though adding relief depth is the final item on the Giants' wish list, Sabean indicated that lack of payroll flexibility might force the club to find reinforcements among its non-roster invitees. "It'd be tough to take on another Major League contract," he said.
Sabean acknowledged that left-hander Mark Mulder, who's attempting a comeback, piqued the Giants' interest, but downplayed chances of a deal with the two-time All-Star who last pitched in 2008. "He's looking for more than we can provide regarding a Major League contract," Sabean said.