In the wake of the Nationals agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with first baseman Adam LaRoche on Tuesday, the Nationals were fielding significant trade interest in first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse, a source said.
FOXsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal narrowed that down a bit, reporting that the Nationals were fielding calls from five or six teams about the 30-year-old slugger.
Morse, who has one year remaining on his contract and will make a fairly affordable $6.75 million for the 2013 season, is seemingly without a position now that the Nationals have re-signed LaRoche for first base and have Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth slated as their everyday outfielders.
Early in December, manager Davey Johsnon admitted that while he’d do his best if it came to it, it seemed unlikely he could find a way to make it work regularly with both Morse and LaRoche on the roster come opening day. The Nationals also have Tyler Moore, who will turn 26 this month, on the roster as another right-handed bat at the same positions Morse plays.
And the Nationals, having seen some of the elite parts of their farm system depleted by trades and promotions, are interested in replenishing their starting pitching prospect depth, as well as in left-handed relief for the major league team. Morse could be their ticket to do so. In the last two seasons, including his breakout 2011 season, Morse has hit .297 with a .343 on-base percentage and .515 slugging. He’s averaged 24 homers, 26 doubles and 78 RBI, despite missing 60 games in 2012 with a torn lat muscle.
Back around the winter meetings in the first week of December, league sources said the Nationals’ asking price on Morse was fairly high — which was to be expected because they did not have to trade the fan-favorite. At that time, the Nationals felt confident about their two-year offer to LaRoche (the same one he ultimately agreed to on Tuesday, which was for $24 million in guaranteed money) but they knew they had Morse and Tyler Moore available to play the position should LaRoche go elsewhere.
On one hand, with the interest in Morse obvious, it now appears likely the team will move him. In one move they could free up their logjam at first base and in the outfield, get a return for a player likely to leave in free agency next offseason anyway, and fill some of their own holes.
On the other hand, the Nationals have shown no qualms in the past about bringing more players to camp than they have starting roles for (with 2012 and John Lannan as the prime example). With such high interest, however, that seems a less likely path this time around.
A few teams that have been rumored to have interest in Morse via various reports (in no particular order) are the Orioles, Mariners, Yankees, Rays, Indians, Phillies and Mets. It would seem unlikely, however, that the Nationals are all that willing to trade Morse to a division rival like Philadelphia or New York.
Morse, a fan-favorite at Nationals Park who has been active on twitter this offseason, tweeted this afternoon that he would be “going silent for a while.” He then re-tweeted a tweet from a Christian Athletes account (@athletes4him) that said “When you expect it the least, and need it the most, God will bless you with what He knows to be best. #Faith.”
Asked about the unintended consequence that his signing would mean the Nationals might move Morse, LaRoche admitted it was bittersweet.
“Well if that is what happens, if they end up moving him, I hate that it took this long into the offseason for Mikey to know where he’s going,” he said. “And it’s unfortunate because it’s just one of those weird situations where we’d be losing one of our best guys, one of our best hitters and a guy that everybody enjoys being around. He’s a big part of the life in that clubhouse.
“I don’t think there’s anybody on the team who wants to see him go. We would all love to find a way to keep him and have that bat in the lineup. That’s all out of our jurisdiction. Leave it to the big boys on what they want to do. Ideally we’d have both of us back but, from the sounds of it, it’s not possible so I don’t know.”