Saturday, September 24, 2011

The LoMo Question

I find it very intriguing that, given Alex Anthopoulos' well-known proclivity for "athletic" players, Prince Fielder has become the Jays' perceived target for this offseason. True, there have to be exceptions - the inability to deviate from organizational philosophy at all is narrow-minded and short-sighted - but between Rajai Davis, Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar, it's extremely difficult to write "Hustle and Heart" off as a company line. AA has a type, and Prince ain't it.
The other potential target that has been brought to light by a number of fans (and a somewhat tongue-in-cheek Keith Law) is Logan Morrison. Given his young age, power bat, and grievance against his current employer, he seems like the logical Anthopoulos object of desire. The question I have is: why?

Logan Morrison plays three positions, potentially - first base, designated hitter and left field. Moreover, he plays those positions with a left-handed bat. In the Jays' system, there are currently six players vying for those positions next season. Five of them (Lind, Snider, Thames, Cooper, Loewen) are left-handed. One of them (Encarnacion) is right-handed.

Morrison is younger than all of those players except for Snider. He also has the highest major league OPS of the lot (of those with any significant playing time). So in a vacuum, I'll submit his late draft position out of high school and his potentially contentious personality and call him the best player of the seven. If you didn't have three or four of those guys - or, and this is important, if you had them but didn't think their upsides were worth their rookie contracts - then Logan Morrison would make a lot of sense for this team. Because if you had slotted LoMo into the cleanup slot instead of Lind for 500 ABs, you probably would have been better off. How much better off? 15 runs? That's the wRC+ spread between the two on Fangraphs. It's also the spread between fifth and fourth place in the majors in runs scored. (And it's going to take a lot more than Logan Morrison to jump into Tex/Bos/NYY territory.)

Anyway, the more pertinent question is probably whether Morrison makes sense in left - where, remember, he blocks one of two players who are also in the age-24 range, are also left-handed, and are also highly-touted. Is Eric Thames' upside so low that you're really willing to sacrifice a strong package of prospects to send him to AAA? Has the Snider ship sailed? I don't think the answer to those two questions is yes, but if Anthopoulos does, then maybe he feels adding another young left-handed power bat with limited positional flexibility makes sense.

That said, there are a couple of scenarios where adding Morrison makes sense:

1) If he's dirt cheap - in which case a lot of other GMs will be after him, but we've seen Alex work magic like this before.

2) Challenge trade. If AA believes that Morrison's upside has passed Snider's and the Marlins are willing to take that gamble just to get Morrison's Twitter account out of their clubhouse, then that trade is a possibility. You could also do something similar with Thames, with the Jays presumably kicking in a marginal prospect.

3) If there was a mythical GM ringing Alex's phone off the hook over Thames, Lind or Snider - especially if said GM was dangling a second baseman and Kelly Johnson had declined arbitration - then acquiring LoMo in a companion deal would make sense.

4) If all the other cards come up face (let's say, if Darvish, Harden + Brandon Phillips sign), then maybe he's the last piece added to a contender. This is especially true if you're forecasting a sophomore slump for Thames.

But really, I look at a team that got a .904 second-half OPS from Encarnacion, a terrific rookie year from Eric Thames, a team that has two (three, if you count Loewen) first-round busts knocking down the door in AAA, and still finished 5th in the majors in runs...I look at all these things, and I don't see corner outfield as a priority. While some may see the lack of a definite starter in left as a need, I see it as an opportunity. With five talented guys in the system, I'll take the odds that any one of them might have as good a year as Logan Morrison in 2012. In the long run, Morrison probably projects to be much the lumbering, unathletic, bottom-of-the-spectrum defender that Prince Fielder is. It's not Anthopoulos' type, and it's not the most important part of a team to build young.

1 comment:

  1. Of course Morrison isn't going to be a "priority", but if you can take advantage of an OPPORTUNITY you do so. He's a (relatively) proven MLB talent, with power and OBP skills. Taking "the odds that any one of [Snider/Loewen/Thames/Cooper] might have as good a year as Logan Morrison in 2012" is a poor decision.