After persuading Giancarlo Stanton to sign a record-setting contract and assuring him that they are committed to winning, the Marlins have augmented the team around him, a process that continued on Tuesday when they agreed to terms with San Francisco Giants free agent first baseman Michael Morse, whom management views as an upgrade over incumbent Garrett Jones.
Though nothing was announced, Morse agreed to a two-year, $16 million contract pending a physical, according to a source with direct knowledge. The deal also includes incentive clauses.
Morse, a native of Fort Lauderdale who attended Nova High in Davie, hit .279 with 16 homers and 61 RBI in 131 games for the Giants last season.
He missed nearly all of September, as well as the Giants' wild card game and division playoff series, because of a strained oblique.
But he hit a game-tying home run in the eighth inning of the Giants' Game 5 series-clinching win against St. Louis in the National League Championship Series, then went 4 for 16 with four RBI in the World Series.
Morse, 32, is a career .281 hitter in 10 seasons with Washington, Seattle, Baltimore and San Francisco. He has 99 home runs and 333 RBI in 704 career games.
The Marlins believe Morse will be a more consistent hitter than Jones, who hit .246 with 15 homers and 53 RBI last season. The Marlins will try to find a taker for Jones and his $5 million salary next season, the second year of a two-year deal.
If not, they might keep Jones as a backup first baseman and fourth outfielder. If Jones is dealt, Justin Bour would be the front-runner to be the backup first baseman.
Morse is a right-handed hitter, and the Marlins initially preferred to add a left-hander hitter. But Morse hits well against right-handers and the Marlins ultimately deemed him the best available option.
Earlier this offseason, the Marlins were outbid for free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, who took the Chicago White Sox' two-year, $25 million offer instead of two years and $20 million from the Marlins.
They also had trade talks involving several first basemen, including Colorado’s Justin Morneau, Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez.
Morse rebounded well last season after an injury-plagued 2013 in which he hit .215 with 13 homers and 27 RBI in 88 games for the Mariners and Orioles.
He was very good the two previous seasons for Washington, hitting .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBI in 102 games in 2012 and .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI in 146 games in 2011.
Morse spent the first four seasons of his career with Seattle and the next four with Washington. He figures to slide into the fourth hole in the Marlins’ lineup, behind Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, and ahead of Marcell Ozuna, Casey McGehee, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adeiny Hechavarria and the pitcher.
The Marlins also hope Morse will be a defensive improvement over Jones, who committed 13 errors last season, most among National League first basemen.
Morse committed two errors in 84 games in the outfield for the Giants last season and three errors in 43 games at first base. He also was used as a designated hitter in four interleague games.
Morse has missed substantial time with injuries throughout his career, including ailments involving his knee (very early in his career), shoulder, back, quadriceps and oblique.
The Marlins filled their other needs last week by trading for speedy second baseman Gordon and starting pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren.
The Marlins' remaining off-season agenda includes signing another backup outfielder, agreeing to terms with several arbitration-eligible players including Steve Cishek and McGehee, and awaiting word from Haren, who has not told the Marlins if he plans to pitch for them or retire. If he insists on pitching closer to his Southern California home, the Marlins might consider trading him.