Morris Risk, Morris Reward 

The chatter is pointing Matt Morris toward San Francisco, where the ex-Cardinal righty would become the Giants' #2 starter. The expected contract is 3 years at something like $25 million, perhaps with a fourth-year option. That's what Ken Rosenthal is reporting today.

[UPDATE: ESPN.com is reporting the deal is three years and $27 million, which sounds like there's a fourth-year option with a couple million for the buyout.]

The rotation would be Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, Cain and probably Brad Hennessey with the edge over Kevin Correia for the 5th slot if the season were to start tomorrow.

There's been much debate about the pros and cons of Morris. I've weighed in as cautiously pro-Morris. When healthy, he can be dominant. But how healthy will he be? $27 million is a big risk for a 31-year-old pitcher who has had major surgery twice. At his peak in 2001-2002 he was one of the game's elites, but the odds of a 31-year-old returning to his age 26/27 performance are not good. It happens, of course. Several elite starting pitchers -- Clemens, Schilling, Randy Johnson, Maddux, etc -- have divined the answers to life, the universe and the strike zone in their mid-30s. Why not Morris? The only person who can answer that is an overweight fortune teller woman I know in the Tenderloin who knows how to read MRIs.

Let us pray that, having had plenty of time to pitch their woo at Morris, the Giants know everything they possibly can about his health, including how closely he trims his toenails. Then let us pray his second-half fade in '05 was due to first-year fatigue coming off winter shoulder surgery.

For those who clamor each off-season for Brian Sabean to make a bold stroke, this is about as close to high risk/high reward as he's going to get these days.

According to another report this morning, the Giants are seriously in the running for Bill Mueller, too. A local paper in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates are trying to lure Mueller with 3 years and $12 million, reports Mueller is speaking with the Dodgers and Giants and leaning toward the West Coast.

Pedro Feliz will make $4 million in 2006. If that were Mueller's '06 salary as well, it's a one-year swap I'd gladly take.

At first glance it sounds like the Giants would lose power and gain on-base ability. Feliz's career OBP is a god-awful .290. Mueller is even better than I would have guessed: .373. Over the course of a full season, Mueller would be on base about 50 times more than Feliz.

Funny thing is, Mueller doesn't give away too much in power. Career slugging percentages: Feliz .439, Mueller .430. You could argue that Feliz has been hurt by the cavernous outfield of Mays Field, and Mueller helped by years at Wrigley and Fenway, but anyone who's watched Feliz consistently knows he's hurt by his own crappy pitch selection more than anything else.

But three years for Mueller? The guy turns 35 in March. Hoping he's healthy in his age-38 year is a huge risk. Any chance the Giants could front-load his contract so he's paid in diminishing amounts, the reverse of how contracts are usually structured?

Adding Mueller would probably create this lineup if the season started soon:

CF Winn
SS Vizquel
2B Durham
LF Bonds
RF Alou
3B Mueller
1B Niekro/Sweeney
C Matheny

With his high OBP, Mueller is better suited for the #2 hole, but I saw somewhere he doesn't like batting second. And dollars get you donuts that Felipe sticks with Vizquel in the 2-hole because of speed and good old "bat-handling" skills.


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