As the World Series wrapped up last night, I continued to think ahead to the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers season. This will be one fo the more compelling off-seasons in recent memory for the Brewers, after reaching the NLCS and watching Prince Fielder walk of the field in a Brewers jersey for probably the final time. The biggest question that many have is who will replace Fielder, and will whoever it is lead the Brewers back to the playoffs? Many people will say "No" to the last half of that question, as I fully expect the Brewers to be projected to finish in the middle of the division next year, but I can think of one man who could make a difference: Logan Morrison.
The Brewers have three different options for filling their Prince-sized hole at first base; they could plug one of their prospects into an everyday job, they could sign a free agent, or they could make a trade. Let's look at each of these options a little closer.
If the Brewers decide to play a prospect every day, that means one of two things. A) Mat Gamel starting, probably at first, or B) Taylor Green starting at third and Casey McGehee playing first. It's entirely possible that the Brewers decide that both Gamel and Green are ready, especially if McGehee comes into Spring Training as cold as he was at the end of this year. Another detail helping Gamel's cause is that he is out of options, and after continually refusing to include him in potential blockbuster trades, it's highly doubtful that Doug Melvin will want to risk putting him on waivers and getting nothing for him. Both of these players had highly productive seasons last year with Nashville, and many feel that it's their turn to get an opportunity in Milwaukee.
There are concerns that keep the Brewers from giving Green and Gamel the jobs outright. Gamel has struggled in each of his trips to the big leagues over the last three seasons, hitting just .219 in 169 ABs. While this could be explained away as not getting consistent at bats, it does not help that Gamel does not seem to have improved at the big league level since he "arrived" in 2009. There are concerns about his makeup and attitude within the organization, many of which were voiced by his manager Don Money. Green was named the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year after shocking the organization by hitting over .300 in Nashville and earning a big-league call up. However, after starting his big-league career like gangbusters, recording hits in his first six games, big league pitching started to figure him out, as he recorded hits in just three of his last 14 games. There is no guarantee that either of these players would be ready for a full-time big league job, and they will not be given one in March without beating out some competition.
That is where the free agent market comes in. The top two free agents at first base, Fielder and Albert Pujols, are out of play for the Brewers. The rest of the market is not terribly appealing. The best options include such wonders as Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Pena, and Derrek Lee. Cuddyer is well-liked in Minnesota, and there's no guarantee that he will even reach the open market. There's also no guarantee that he would want to move into the infield full time. With the price range the Brewers have, Cuddyer is probably out. The same goes for Pena. As NoahJ mentions in his fantastic post today about replacing Fielder, Pena is just coming off of a $10M contract, and it's unlikely he would accept the type of dramatic pay-cut the Brewers would be talking. Lee is a shell of his former self, and while he still brings veteran leadership and a solid glove, he has posted an average 1.3 WAR in the last two years. He is getting close to the stage of his career that Craig Counsell has been at for the last three years. If the Brewers wanted to sign someone to be a stopgap or to simply push or platoon withGamel, they could look to Casey Blake, Conor Jackson, or even bring back Lyle Overbay. None of these players really seem like the answer that the Brewers are looking for though. That's why I feel like they should make a run at Logan Morrison.
In a world where the Marlins were run by someone other than Jeffrey Loria (read: someone competent), Morrison would never even be talked about as available. However, Loria is one of baseball's greatest egos, and when someone does something that makes him look bad, he goes on a power trip and removes that person. Just ask Fredi Gonzalez. And Wes Helms. Morrison has always been controversial because of his Twitter account, @LoMoMarlins, and the questionable things he has said on there. He was sent down this year in what was widely viewed as a disciplinary measure after being told by Helms that he didn't have to show up to a meet-and-greet with all 14 Marlins' season tickets holders. This absence, along with the tweeting, ended up with Morrison in AAA for nearly two weeks. What this means is that, even though Morrison was third on the Marlins in RBI and hit over 20 home runs and isn't even eligible for arbitration yet, he might be available during the offseason because ownership is sick of him.
Morrison finished last year with a .247/.330/.468 line, and while he only had a 1.0 fWAR, that was affected mainly by his defense. The benefit here is that we can toss that dWAR out of the window, because Morrison played all but 1 game last year in left field. Remember back two years; the Marlins had two stud first baseman coming up through the minors. One has blossomed into an All-Star, Gaby Sanchez. The other? Logan Morrison. Morrison was shoe-horned into left field so that the Marlins could get his bat into the lineup every day. I have no doubt that he could move back to first base and do an excellent job. His offense would be a welcome addition to a Milwaukee team that will need all the help they can get in order to get back to October baseball. Also, Morrison's attitude would never be an issue in Milwaukee. In fact, this may be the team most suited for Morrison in that regard. Can you imaging LoMo and T-Plush playing together every day?
Overall, I believe Logan Morrison may be the answer the Brewers are looking for at first base, not just for the upcoming season, but for the next few years as well. He's young, cheap, and potentially acquirable this offseason, which is not something you can say about many players like him. Morrison may not be cheap, but we could get him for a package of a minor league starting pitcher (not Peralta or Fiers) and an outfielder like Gindl. Even if the Marlins wanted a pitcher who was major-league ready, we could offer them Narveson and fill the 5th starter role internally. Hopefully the Brewers can use the schism between LoMo and the Marlins to their advantage and pick up their next first baseman in the upcoming months.