Nyjer Morgan Making An Early Impression
The Cleveland Indians have three left-handed hitting outfielders that barring injury will break camp with the club and garner the most plate appearances. It won’t be an uncommon sight against a right-handed pitcher to see Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, and David Murphy in the outfield. Despite the roster logjam Nyjer Morgan agreed to a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians in mid-January. If he were to make the team and meet all of his incentives he could earn a little more than $1M in salary.
Could there be a scenario where the Indians break spring training with a fourth left-handed hitting outfielder? “There’s a lot of scenarios,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said. “Somebody sprains an ankle..and on top of that it’s so early to start dissecting who is going to make the club.”
Since coming to camp manager Terry Francona has yet to meet gregarious alter-ego Tony Plush but says, “I’m o.k. with that too, I’m o.k. with Nyjer.” But, Francona also made it clear that Morgan has been anything but quiet since he arrived in camp. As for Morgan’s past antics Francona was blunt saying, “I don’t care what he did before – that would be totally unfair to him. He’s been exemplary ever day. He shows up and he’s enthusiastic.”
The 33-year-old Morgan has had an up and down major league career. His best seasons came in 2009 when he was credited with five wins above replacement by Fangraphs.com (fWAR)while splitting time between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington National and the 2011 season when he earned a 3.6 fWAR rating with the Milwaukee Brewers.
While with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011 he delivered the organizations biggest hit in franchise history when he singled in the winning run to defeat Arizona in the NLDS and his post game interview with his alter-ego Tony Plush became an internet sensation.
In the other four seasons of his career, he has averaged less than one win above replacement and when his numbers dropped to career lows in 2012 he was designated for assignment off of the Brewers 40-man roster and elected to test the waters as a free agent.
After not receiving a suitable major league offer he accepted a one-year deal to play for the Yokohama Baystars of Japan’s Central League for $1.3M. With the Baystars he posted an impressive slash line of .294/.361/.434 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI.
If he doesn’t make the team out of spring training he would be a tremendous option in the event of an injury to one of the outfielders. Additionally, often times a player will continue to battle through a minor injury because the organization lacks capable replacements at the minor league level. He would enable the Indians to push one of their outfielders to the disabled list to get back to health while he fills the void on the big league club.
When the opportunity is afforded to him, if he is able to regain the ability he showed in his 2009 and 2011 campaigns, the Indians will not be upset if Nyjer Morgan or Tony Plush shows up to the park that day.