He “wasn’t motivated” to move Lyle Overbay. Then he was traded to Toronto to make room for Prince Fielder. He didn’t think he could get Zack Greinke. Then he traded half his farm system for him. He wasn’t interested in Nyjer Morgan. Now the Brewers have a new centerfielder.
The Brewers sent Cutter Dykstra to the Nationals for the controversial speedster. The move comes a couple days after Morgan told Washington media that he felt he was no longer a fit for the organization and it was “time to move on.” Those comments put the onus on Nats management to move Morgan before opening day, and also effectively torpedoed his trade value.
He should be able to help the team on the field. Many will fixate on past transgressions. Many will find it hard to cheer for him. But honestly, as long as he produces, does it matter if he has a bad reputation?
Before August of last year, Morgan didn’t have this reputation. Then he had a (really, really) bad two weeks in which he threw a ball at a Phillies fan, crashed into Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson while Anderson was 2 feet away from the plate, and got into the now-infamous brawl with the Florida Marlins that ended with him getting clotheslined by Gaby Sanchez.
Tom Haudricourt quoted Doug Melvin as saying he’s “not a bad guy,” and is just “emotional.” Considering how his year in Washington went, it isn’t any surprise that he got frustrated — it was probably the worst year of his career, he was on a bad team, and he saw his job slipping away. That doesn’t make what he did okay, but it does make it understandable. It seems to have swayed Melvin enough to take a chance.
Right now, it appears the price for Morgan dropped enough for Melvin’s liking. Dykstra does some things well, but the Brewers have never been able to find a defensive position for him, and his ceiling is probably that of a bench player. He did have a bit of a breakout year at the plate for Class A Wisconsin in 2010, though, hitting .312/.416/.411 in 353 at-bats. Perhaps the Nats can find a position for him. If you want a quick Washington perspective on the deal, you can check out Will Yoder’s post over at The Nats Blog. I asked Will via e-mail about Morgan’s personality:
Morgan is pretty eccentric. He will occasionally talk about himself in the third person, or refer to himself as his gentleman alter ego, Tony Plush. For the most part his behavior is harmless, much in the way that Ricky Henderson’s quirks really had no effect on how he fit in with teammates. Of course, Morgan isn’t the player Henderson was by any light, and his blow up last summer alienated him from many in the club house. I would say that he had a bad few weeks which cost him his spot in Washington, but overall he is not a bad clubhouse presence…but certainly not a normal one.
It appears Morgan will start the year as the team’s 4th outfielder, as Melvin made sure to talk with Carlos Gomez and tell him the job is still his. Brandon Boggs is apparently the odd man out in the outfield, as he was told he wasn’t making the team. That means Jeremy Reed likely will make the team — not something I entirely agree with, but it’s not a move that will matter much either way.
Morgan should be an asset defensively and could be one of the basepaths if he cuts down on the CS. Last year’s numbers weren’t pretty, but it was only ~500 ABs. He had over 730 ABs before that pointed towards him being a solid bat. Neither are very big samples. We won’t know what we get out of Morgan until he starts playing, but we do know a couple of things — the Brewers are unlikely to miss Dykstra, and Morgan should at least be a better overall player than Reed. I can see being indifferent about this move, but I can’t understand why anyone would hate it.