Logan Morrison Involved in More Drama

Logan Morrison, once scolded by the Florida Marlins for being so candid on Twitter, found himself in more hot water yesterday as he was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans. The Marlins lost 3-0 to the San Francisco Giants, their eighth loss in their last nine games. While Morrison had been dreadful at the plate in June and July, he posted an .836 OPS in August. Overall, he has been a big part of the Marlins’ offense with the third-highest wOBA among Marlin hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.

Joe Capozzi, the Marlins beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, tweeted that Morrison thought he was demoted because of “an off-field issue” as opposed to his recent offensive struggles. Morrison refused to go any further on the issue, but based on what has been in the news lately, we can make some deductions.

From the Miami Herald on June 22:

Logan Morrison gave Hanley Ramirez an earful when the shortstop was the last to stroll in before new manager Jack McKeon addressed the team for the first time on Monday. Sources said that Morrison ripped into Ramirez, saying his tardy behavior could be the reason why he is hitting just .200.

Ramirez was scratched from Monday’s lineup, though McKeon said the reason was because he didn’t care for the way Ramirez ran the bases in St. Petersburg on Sunday. On Tuesday, Ramirez was not only in the lineup, but batting cleanup for the first time since Little League.

It is no secret that Ramirez means more to the Marlins going forward than Morrison. At his best, Ramirez is a top-five player in all of baseball playing a premium position, and the Marlins owe him $46 million over the next three seasons with a new ballpark on the horizon. Morrison, a 22nd-round pick in the 2005 draft, is a corner outfielder with limited offensive potential. While many people defended Morrison upon hearing the news of his demotion, the Marlin front office defended the player who means more to the franchise in the long run.

Based on everything that has happened between Morrison and the Marlins, it is hard to envision the relationship working out. Morrison will not just accept his demotion as if it was completely justified. And the Marlins will not want to retain a player who is combative to cornerstone players and his superiors. Eventually, the  Marlins will need to trade Morrison. If and when they do make him available, 29 teams will be waiting anxiously for a shot at the young outfielder who is cost-controlled through at least 2016. Worst of all for the Marlins, they will have little leverage as their hand has been revealed.

Could the Phillies get involved? With the acquisition of right fielder Hunter Pence, the Phillies’ outfield is set through at least 2012 with Domonic Brown in left and Shane Victorino in center. But Victorino is a free agent going into ’13 and, given his MVP-caliber season thus far, could become quite expensive. It is hard to imagine Brown moving to center, but Pence has over 844 innings of experience playing center field at the Major League level and an additional 112 games in the Minors. If the Phillies feel that their odds of (or interest in) re-signing Victorino are low, they could try to pick up Morrison as a left-handed bench bat and back-up outfielder/first baseman for the 2012 season, then move him to left field in ’13 with Brown moving back to right field and putting Pence in center.

The Phillies recently signed lefty Jack Cust as Triple-A filler and a potential replacement for the injured Ross Gload. Via Comcast SportsNet, GM Ruben Amaro said,

We don’t have a ton of power off the bench. We don’t have a guy who can pop the ball out of the ballpark—we don’t have that threat, so we thought it was worth a shot.

Cust, a noted power bat, has a career ISO only two points higher than Morrison, .197 to .195. While having both is redundant, Morrison would obviously supersede Cust if acquired; Cust was a no-risk, medium-reward signing — the Phillies can get rid of him at any time.

Additionally, Morrison has a good fan following within the Phillies community, certainly not common for someone playing for a division rival. Needless to say, Morrison wouldn’t need to find ways to get fans to the ballpark, and he would be a boon to merchandise sales in jerseys and t-shirts. This is one aspect of Morrison’s repertoire that applies to the Phillies and no one else, just one more reason why the Phillies should at least strongly consider acquiring Morrison.

As for what he would cost, given that the rift between Morrison and the Marlins’ front office is public, and they demoted him for “performance issues“, the Marlins simply cannot ask for much. And the longer they wait to resolve the situation, the worse off the team is and the worse off the team looks in the public eye. Already, Marlins fans on Twitter are trying to organize a “no show” until Morrison is brought back to the Majors. With what little attendance they get now, they cannot afford to hemorrhage any more.

There are only two worries: the Phillies are a division rival, so the Marlins may be hesitant to deal with the soon-to-be NL East champions five consecutive years running. The other worry is that there will be a lot of interest in Morrison as mentioned previously, so the more teams that are interested, the more expensive he becomes.

It is unfortunate that an energetic, fan-friendly player had a falling-out with his team, but the Phillies can use that to their advantage and improve their team through 2016. A lot of pieces have to fall in the right place, but it is certainly possible and something Amaro and his front office pals should be watching closely.