Just as quickly as the pitching depth problem was addressed with the aaddition of Sergio Mitre, a problem of outfield depth was created with the departure of Chris Dickerson. Although it looked as if the Brewers were going to go with Brandon Boggs and Jeremy Reed as the fourth and fifth outfielders, the Brewers pulled the trigger on a trade Sunday morning to bring in CF Nyjer Morgan from the Nationals in exchange for positionless (technically a third baseman for now) prospect Cutter Dykstra.
The loss of Dykstra is irrelevant. He put up a nice line in the minors last season (.312 AVG/.416 OBP/.412 SLG), but he still strikes out too much and doesn’t have enough power for his bat to play at a non-premium position. Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein tweeted of Dykstra, “Not a fan of new Nationals IF Cutter Dykstra who I saw many times in 2010. Doesn’t have D chops to stay in IF; plus speed is gone.” Dykstra’s ceiling is utility player, and it will be a minor miracle if he reaches it.
Nyjer Morgan, on the other hand, is a very interesting player. He’s one of the speediest players in the game, capable of playing good to great defense in center field as well as utilizing speed on the bases. His bat, however, often leaves a bit to be desired. He holds a solid .283/.344/.360 career batting line, but he collapsed last season en route to a .253/.319/.314 line with the Nationals in 2010 (577 plate appearances).
As with players on down years, some bounceback should be expected. Morgan takes enough walks that he should be able to maintain a .330 OBP or higher, and even with the very limited power that he provides, that’s a solid performance for a good defensive center fielder. And even though the ridiculous +28 UZR (or 2.8 wins better than the average center fielder) Morgan posted in 2009 was either unsustainable or at the high end of the margin for error, Morgan still appears to be an above average fielder – and he should be with his blazing speed.
Morgan should also provide value on the bases, although his reckless base stealing needs to be reined in by the Brewers coaching staff. I detailed over at FanGraphs how Morgan has actually cost his team by getting picked off or caught stealing so many times. However, even with these issues, he’s provided baserunning value through other factors, like taking third base on singles or home on doubles. If Ed Sedar and the rest of the staff can harness that raw speed, Morgan could become even more of a force, perhaps stealing 30+ bases without making 15+ outs in the process.
Overall though, Morgan is a good bet to provide some value off the bench and may even threaten Carlos Gomez for the starting job in center field before too long. The previous two days have seen the team become markedly better, as the team added potential contributors as well as depth to a team needing both. I would certainly take the combination of Mitre and Morgan over Chris Dickerson and Cutter Dykstra, and I believe most organizations would agree. The Brewers’ creative use of their assets should pay dividends this summer.