- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The strains of the song came through as clear and loud as they ever had last October in what would be Michael Morse’s final at-bat as a member of the Washington Nationals. The fans at Nationals Park stood and sang the words to Morse’s walk-up song, A-ha’s “Take on me” with delirious joy. Morse obliged with a hard single up the middle.

As far as final moments go, Morse’s is one Nationals fans will remember fondly.

The Nationals traded Morse to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday as part of a three-team trade that helps put them well on their way to re-stocking their farm system by getting back right-handed prospect A.J. Cole from the Oakland Athletics. The Nationals traded Cole to the A’s 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.

“I would like to thank the Lerners and Mike Rizzo for giving me the opportunity to play everyday,” Morse tweeted. “To all my D.C. fans, I’m forever grateful for the love and support you have shown me from day (one).

“We made magic last year and I will never forget the Natitude! I will miss my teammates and the moments we’ve shared. It has been an awesome (four) years, and now it’s on to the next chapter. D.C., it has been a fun ride.”

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 a two-year agreement with first baseman Adam LaRoche. With Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth entrenched in the outfield corners following the deal for center fielder Denard Span, Morse became the Nationals‘ likely backup plan at first base and then became expendable when LaRoche signed.

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. He was an integral part of a lineup that helped the Nationals become one of baseball’s powers and, despite a lat tear that cost him two months at the start of the 2012 season, a 98-game winner.

His at-bat immediately after the team clinched their first National League East title this past September, with the crowd on their feet in what became a customary singing of his walk-up music, was one of the most memorable from the Nationals‘ first foray into playoff baseball. Morse, who has one year left on his contract at $6.75 million, played in Seattle’s organization from 2004-2009 and fills the Mariners need for a power bat. Tyler Moore will likely serve as the Nationals‘ primary right-handed bat off the bench with Morse gone.

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 by Baseball America 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.

Treinen, 24, was a seventh-round selection of the A’s in the 2011 draft, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander who the A’s used as both a starter and a reliever. Given his large frame, Treinen has the ability to throw his fastball between 92-97 mph, according to Baseball America, and also has a slider as well as a changeup, though the changeup is considered his weakest pitch. He pitched in high Single-A Stockton in 2012, making 24 appearances (15 starts) with a 4.37 ERA.

The numbers for Cole and Treinen will be interesting to watch this season as they pitch for the Nationals‘ minor league affiliates, outside of what is considered a offensively slanted league in California.

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