The Minnesota Twins have had an active offseason, but to this point, it has been solely adding pitching to a group that was propped up by a strong offense last season as the team surprisingly contended.
That could be about to change.
Update (2/25, 1:00 p.m.):
Jon Morosi is reporting that the Twins have signed Morrison:
And FanRag has the contract details:
Darren Wolfson of KSTP and 1500 ESPN reported and Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has since confirmed that the team is showing interest in former Rays first baseman Logan Morrison.
Morrison came up as a highly-touted prospect in the Florida Marlins system a decade ago, but never really found his footing as he bounced between the Marlins, Seattle Mariners and the Rays as a light-hitting first baseman and corner outfielder.
That changed in 2017, as Morrison set career-high marks in games played (149), home runs (38), RBIs (85), OPS (868) and OPS+ (135). Shoot over to Fangraphs and we find that, and not unexpectedly, he posted bests in wOBA (.363) and wRC+ (130), as well.
While it came out of nowhere — Morrison hit 38 homers last year and just 31 in the previous two seasons combined — it wasn’t by accident.
Morrison embraced the philosophy that has gained a lot of traction on among hitting experts on Twitter. In short, we’ll call it “Elevate and Celebrate.”
The short-form explanation is that the goal is to hit the ball in the air. Grounders lead to singles, balls in the air lead to doubles, triples and homers. Morrison’s career rate of groundballs to fly balls is 1.14, and he was coming off a season with the Rays where he’d hit 1.27 grounders per fly ball.
As a result, he wasn’t tapping much into the physical strength he has as a strapping 6-foot-3, 245-pound physical specimen. Morrison cut his groundball-to-fly ball ratio to 0.72 last year, and reaped the benefits by hitting a stellar .246/.353/.516 in his walk year with the Rays.
The cost-conscious Rays opted to not tender him a qualifying offer after the season, so any team that signs him will not have to surrender draft choices, either.
The added lift on Morrison’s batted balls wasn’t the only change he made. He did see a bit of a slip in BABIP — this is normal for players who hit the ball in the air, and not particularly worrisome — but he also saw a huge spike in walk rate (13.5 percent against a career rate of 10.5 percent), and he also embraced an uptick in strikeouts as well.
He fanned 24.8 percent of the time last year against a career rate of 19.1 percent. It’s all about tradeoffs, and in 2017 it was worth it for Morrison. That rate of just under one-quarter of the time still isn’t particularly high. The AL average last year was 21.4 percent — and the walk rate was 8.4, which he drastically outperformed — and a quick glance at last year’s home run leaderboard for the AL shows us that guys who produce lots of power also tend to strike out quite a bit.
Only seven hitters across MLB had more homers than Morrison last year, and only two of them — Giancarlo Stanton (23.6) and Nelson Cruz (21.7) — struck out less often than he did.
Could it be open season on former Rays? As Berardino notes, Jake Odorizzi has taken to recruiting both players — Morrison and starter Alex Cobb — and it’s not just the right-handed pitcher who might help give them some intel. The Twins also added Josh Kalk to their operations department over the winter, and Derek Shelton was the hitting coach for the Rays from 2010-16.
Maybe nothing comes of it, but the Twins have an open 40-man spot after the waiver claim of J.T. Chargois and could still possibly move on from someone like Kennys Vargas, who’d likely be rendered obsolete with a Morrison addition.
The hot stove isn’t turned all the way off, at least not quite yet.