Nyjer Morgan: Trade Bait


Last year was a match made in Heaven, from the moment Nyjer showed up at the end of Spring Training, met the team, and said, “What up, F*****s!” to his series-winning hit against Arizona (we won’t talk about his play in the NLCS). Milwaukee couldn’t get enough Tony Plush/whatever alter ego you prefer.

So what’s my point? A lot can change in a year, because the Brewers should look into trading their quirky center fielder.

Before I get started, I want to be clear that this post has nothing to do with Morgan’s “antics” or whatever. There has been some discussion that Morgan might wear out his welcome here like he did in Washington, but that doesn’t really concern me. The are two reasons the Brewers should trade him: Morgan’s career year last year, and the Brewers’ outfield logjam.

Let’s start with Morgan’s 2010. He had a very good year, earning a WAR of 4.0 in less than full playing time. It was one of his two best seasons as a pro. Yet, I’d bet against him being as good this year for a few reasons. One is his walk rate. Last year, it was an awful 4.4%. It is incredibly difficult to get on base at a .357 clip with no power and a low walk rate, but Morgan managed to pull that off. It’s largely because of his .362 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is 20 points higher than his career number. That implies Morgan got quite lucky last season.

I don’t expect him to fall off a cliff or anything, but I just don’t see him putting up a .304/.357/.421 line next year. Bill James’ projection of .288/.345/.362 seems much more likely.

The other thing that allows the Brewers to trade Morgan is the quality outfield depth they suddenly have. When a Braun suspension was possible, it made sense for the Brewers to follow through and sign Nori Aoki–he would have been the left fielder for the first 50 games. Now that Braun will play the full season, Aoki seems relegated to a 5th outfielder. Meanwhile, the Brewers have a nice player in Logan Morgan, a AAA center fielder that Baseball America ranks as the team’s number 6 prospect. Schafer put up a .385 OBP in the minors last season, and provides solid center field defense and speed. Basically, he projects to be Nyjer Morgan with a better walk rate.

Trading Morgan when his value is at its highest could net a nice prospect and free up some money to add a reliever or a bench bat with some pop around the trade deadline. Aoki and Schafer are both left-handed, so they could fill in the platoon role with Carlos Gomez. I doubt the Brewers would skip a beat in this scenario.

Baseball is about turning your surpluses into assets. The Brewers have a surplus of center fielders, and they’d be best served by selling off the one with the best trade value.