The Orioles made a pair of waiver claims with the hopes of bolstering their lineup this week, and Friday they were able to convert on one of them by acquiring Mike Morse from the Mariners in exchange for outfield prospect Xavier Avery. Both teams have announced the trade via press release.
Morse, 31, came to the Mariners in a three-team trade that sent John Jaso to the A's and prospects A.J. Cole, Ian Krol and Blake Treinen to the Nationals. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had high hopes in re-acquiring Morse after the right-handed hitter mashed his way to a .296/.345/.516 line with 64 homers in 346 games from 2010-12. However, Morse has been a disappointment in Seattle. He slugged six homers in the season's first nine games but is now hitting just .226/.283/.410 with 13 homers overall. He's missed time this season with a broken pinkie finger as well as a severe quad strain.
Morse, who was claimed by the Orioles on Wednesday, is a free agent at season's end, so he is strictly a rental. He's earning $6.75MM this season, meaning that he has approximately $1.1MM remaining on his contract. While Morse has experience as a corner outfielder and first baseman, he's regarded as one of the game's worst defensive outfielders by both Ultimate Zone Rating and The Fielding Bible.
The Orioles also placed a claim on Minnesota's Josh Willingham, but the two sides couldn't work out a deal due to the Twins' high asking price for their left fielder. The Twins reportedly asked for top left-handed pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, causing the O's to balk and turn their attention to Morse.
Avery, 23, is currently ranked as Baltimore's No. 10 prospect, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. He entered the season ranked seventh among Orioles prospects according to Baseball America. The former second-round pick is hitting just .237/.312/.312 in 333 plate appearances at Triple-A this season, though he opened the year with a respectable .300/.391/.406 line in 186 Double-A plate appearances. Avery has stolen 29 bases in 37 attempts across the two levels, which matches up with Mayo's report that Avery's speed is his best tool. Mayo writes that he's good enough from a defensive standpoint to play center and could be an everyday player if his offense improves. BA echoes that statement, noting that Avery has strong hands and good bat speed but lacks pitch recognition and is too aggressive at the plate.
Avery made his Major League debut for the Orioles last season, batting .223/.305/.340 with a homer and six stolen bases in 94 plate appearances.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that the Orioles had traded for Morse (Twitter links), and Peter Gammons of the MLB Network was the first to break the news that Avery was headed to Seattle (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.