Are The Mariners Using Morse And Morales To Audition New Safeco Field?
This off-season, the Mariners acquired two power bats in Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, interestingly both only signed for one year. I’ve gone over the fact that I don’t like the Morse deal, but I’m starting to wonder if acquiring him with only one year left on his deal wasn’t strategy on the Mariners part. I wonder if they don’t want to have him or Morales beyond one season. I’m starting to think that the Mariners are using these two to show hitters around the league that home runs can be hit at new Safeco Field.
These two hitters aren’t superstars by any means, but power is definitely the strong part of each player’s game. They’re not effective if they’re not hitting home runs at a semi-regular pace. Sure, they both hit for decent average and may hit a double from time-to-time, but they’re both overly aggressive. Everybody knows that the reason these two guys were brought in is to hit the ball over the wall.
How does the perception of Safeco Field change among hitters if Morse and Morales each hit 25+ home runs this season? Considering that Morse’s career-high in home runs is 31, and Morales’ is 34, those numbers would tell hitters around the league that you can get your regular numbers at Safeco Field. Morales should have an easier time doing so if he’s not traded at the deadline–as a switch-hitter, he will bat lefty most of the time, and Safeco is still more forgiving to left-handed hitters.
Morse is really the true test of whether or not the perception for right-handed hitters will change. While Morse has power to all fields, and will hit a few bombs to right-center, he’s primarily a pull hitter. Morse having success would probably be more persuasive to hitters that are on the fence (HA!) about coming to Seattle. If Morse is successful, then it likely expands the pool of players the Mariners can sign in free agency.
After 2013, there are some decent options the Mariners could bring in. Though he’s now a first baseman, Corey Hart has spent most of his career in the outfield, and has a solid power bat. Mike Napoli will be back on the market and could make sense as a backup catcher, assuming Montero will see the bulk of his time at DH next season. Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Shin-Soo Choo will be free agents as well. If Morales and Morse can show that they can conquer Safeco Field, some of those players may be more inclined to believe they can do so too.
It’s been no secret that one of the reasons players haven’t signed with the Mariners for fear of their numbers being destroyed. Morse and Morales can prove this season that hitting at Safeco isn’t quite as hard as it used to be. If they can do that, then the Mariners can re-sign one of them, or both, or use the new evidence that Safeco isn’t death to hitters and sign a big bat free agent. If it doesn’t work, Morales and Morse are gone at the end of the year, and aren’t such huge superstars that you really hate losing them. In that scenario, the Mariners would need to trade for a slugger or hope one of their guys became the next player to alleviate fears of hitting in Safeco Field.
So, at the worst, the Mariners are in the same position of attractiveness as last season as far as luring hitters in. At best? They look just like any other park. Jack Zdruiencik has acquired two players that could greatly impact the perception of playing in Seattle in a positive way. He’s accomplished this with minimal risk, to boot. Jack’s new M&M’s are basically being the guinea pigs for new Safeco Field, and the reward for this experiment paying off could be enormous.