Giants fill left field gap, sign Michael Morse

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants completed their starting outfield for 2014 by signing Michael Morse to play left field. But can they count on his defense?

The Giants entered free agency locked in at right field and center field with Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan, respectively. In left field, their options left much to be desired, with Gregor Blanco as the only in house option. But on Thursday, the Giants signed Michael Morse to a one year deal with a base salary of $5M.

It's not a secret that the Giants want more of an offensive threat and signing Morse would help bolster the lineup in that way. But, as AT&T Park is the most pitcher-friendly park with a park factor of 74, there's only so much an offensive-leaning player can do. Although, in five games lifetime at AT&T Park, Morse hit .316/.435/.632 with a BABIP of .385 and one home run. That's an extremely small sample size, of course, so there's not much that should be banked on with this information.

In 88 games during 2013, Morse hit .215/.270/.381 with both the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles. A .286 wOBA and a 78 wRC+ leave something to be desired if the Giants hope that he's going to help fuel the offense, but a .167 ISO does offer some hope for them.

Defense, however, is key for the Giants at AT&T Park. With Triples Alley in right field and a deep outfield, being able to field there helps them win more games than a power hitting lineup can. We measure value in a context neutral way, but outfield defense matters more to the Giants than it does to most teams.

Morse has a career -15.5 UZR in left field in 1113.2 innings, with -0.1 last season. Career fielding numbers also include a RngR of -15.3 and a ErrR of 1.2. When you pit that against last year's starting left fielder, Gregor Blanco, Morse doesn't look that great. Blanco has a career UZR of 6.5 in left field, with an RngR of 5.7 and a ErrR of 0.2. While Morse may have the advantage of being able to hit more dingers, the Giants will almost definitely have to look at finding a defensive-wizard fourth outfielder to come into the game in late innings.

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All statistics and information courtesy of FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Park Factors.com, and Cot's Baseball Contracts.

Jen Mac Ramos is a contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on twitter at @_jenmac.

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