Logan Morrison feels like a new ballplayer.
For the first time in three years, Morrison said his right knee is strong and absent pain.
But instead of waiting to see how a healthy Morrison would perform at the plate, whether the 26-year-old first baseman becomes the same pure hitter he was before the surgically repaired knee reduced him to a shadow of his former self, the Marlins decided it wasn’t worth the gamble and traded him to Seattle.
That deal — for reliever Carter Capps — was finalized Friday.
“That’s a fair question,” Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, replied when asked if the team thought about holding on to Morrison just a little longer to see if he returned to earlier form. “And it’s something that we went back and forth with this offseason.”
Ultimately, though, the Marlins’ decision-makers chose to go in another direction, signing free agent first baseman Garrett Jones and dealing Morrison to the Mariners for Capps.
“We really haven’t seen a productive LoMo since the 2011 season when he hit 23 home runs,” Hill said. “We needed to upgrade, that six home runs and 36 RBI [last season], it just wasn’t going to get us where we wanted to go.”
By substituting Jones for Morrison, Hill said the Marlins are getting a “consistent run producer, anywhere from 15 to 27 home runs on an annual basis,” and that Jones was “a better fit moving forward.”
Nonetheless, Hill acknowledged that the potential is there for Morrison to rebound.
“We felt that there was value in LoMo,” Hill said. “He’s just 26 years old and there’s still a ton of potential there. There’s no question there’s a ton of potential. But we wanted to go with a more proven, consistent player. And I think once we made that decision, we went to work on trying to sign the best fit [Jones] to help our ballclub.”
Hill said that Capps, a 23-year-old right-hander, will be employed as a late-inning reliever. The Marlins are enchanted with Capps’ “triple-digit fastball and a slider that is well above average.”
The Marlins are “acquiring a tremendous right-handed pitcher in Carter Capps — highly coveted, highly touted, big arm, power slider,” Hill said. “He will pitch meaningful innings for us.”
Capps, 23, averages 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings. In 53 relief appearances for Seattle last season, Capps went 3-3 with a 5.45 ERA. However, he also gave up 12 home runs in only 59 innings.
“Our scouts identified something in his delivery that we will address immediately, that we think will allow him to return to the dominant form that we saw in 2012,” Hill said. “We saw glimpses of it last year also. But we’re not worried at all that he will not be an effective back-end reliever for us. Definitely, we have not seen the best of Carter Capps.”