The Washington Nationals traded slugger Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners Wednesday night as part of a three-team trade that will get them back prospect A.J. Cole. The Nationals traded Cole to the Oakland Athletics last winter as part of the package for left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
The Nationals also received minor-league right-hander Blake Treinen from the A’s and will get a player to be named from Oakland in the deal, which also sent catcher John Jaso from Seattle to Oakland.
Morse, the Nationals’ fan-favorite outfielder/first baseman, was drawing significant trade interest all winter but that interest intensified last week when the Nationals finalized an agreement with first baseman Adam LaRoche. With Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth entrenched in the outfield corner spots following the deal for center fielder Denard Span, Morse became the Nationals’ backup plan at first base. With LaRoche back in the fold, he then became expendable.
Acquired in a minor league deal for Ryan Langerhans in June 2009, Morse’s career flourished in Washington, first as a bench player and then in 2011 as a starter when he hit .303 and clubbed 31 home runs. Morse, who has one year left on his contract at $6.75 million, played in Seattle’s organization from 2004-2009 and fills a Mariners need for a power bat.
The Nationals wanted to replenish their prospect pool in any trade for Morse and by acquiring Cole, as well as two other minor leaguers, they did just that. Their need for a left-handed reliever, believed to be another thing they were seeking in a possible trade, was lessened with the signing of Rafael Soriano on Tuesday.
The Nationals considered Cole a premium prospect when they traded him to Oakland last winter, along with catcher Derek Norris, and pitchers Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone, and they still view him as such now. But Cole, who had never pitched above Single-A Hagerstown when he was traded in 2011, struggled in high Single-A Stockton this season with the A’s.
A strong-armed 20-year-old, Cole was still listed as the A’s No. 3 prospect after the 2012 season despite the 7.82 ERA in high Single-A that got him demoted to low Single-A in May. According to Baseball America, after the demotion, Cole “smoothed out his mechanics and would have led the Midwest League in ERA (2.07) if he had logged enough innings to qualify.”
Scouts view Cole as a potential future ace and despite his struggles he is still extremely young. The Nationals drafted Cole in the fourth round in 2010 out of high school. A potential first-round pick, Cole fell because of his price tag and the Nationals gave him a record $2 million that summer.