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Michael Morse Rumors
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.
12:15pm: The Twins asked the Orioles for multiple pitching prospects in exchange for Willingham, according to Kubatko. Prized lefty Eduardo Rodriguez was among Minnesota's targets. The 20-year-old Rodriguez ranks as the No. 86 prospect in baseball at this time, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
9:42am: The Orioles have been highly active on the waiver market this week, claiming both Josh Willingham of the Twins and Mike Morse of the Mariners. Morse is far likelier to end up with Baltimore it seems, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that a Willingham trade is "not happening at this point" because of the Twins' lofty asking price. Kubatko says the Orioles and Mariners are still actively trying to work out a deal for Morse, though.
Willingham is under contract for 2014 at just $7MM and belted 35 homers for the Twins last season, so it's not a surprise to see them asking a lot even in a down season for Willingham. Despite his low batting average, he's still posted strong OBP and ISO numbers. Morse is a free agent at season's end and owed just over $1.1MM for the remainder of the 2013 season. There have been reports indicating that he's likely to be moved, as he no longer has a place in the Mariners' organization. He hasn't played in either of the team's two games since being claimed by the Orioles.
With the clock ticking on the August revocable waiver trade market, here are the latest updates …
- Outfielder Michael Morse, who is suited up but not in the lineup for the Mariners tonight, is "almost certain" to join the Orioles in the immediate future, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The O's claimed Morse earlier today, giving the teams two days to work out a deal (or for Seattle to pull Morse back or allow Baltimore to assume his contract without compensation). As Baker explains, Morse no longer appears to be in the team's future plans, leaving little reason for the club to hold onto him. Just over $1MM remains on Morse's $6.75MM salary for this season.
- The Padres pulled back third baseman Chase Headley after he was claimed on waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. While that news is hardly surprising, given that Headley was reportedly placed on waivers back on August 20th, it does confirm that Headley did not clear waivers and will no longer be available this season. Headley, who will be entering his final season of team control, has failed to repeat his strong 2012 season but remains an attractive player going forward. Heyman notes that the Pads are expected to explore a multi-year extension with the 29-year-old over the coming off-season, and estimates that he could command a five-year, $75MM deal.
- The Red Sox could look to pick up a right-handed bullpen piece before Saturday's non-waiver trade deadline, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Manager John Farrell said that he is not concerned about the pen, but added that "if there's someone out there that makes sense for us to acquire, we might see that." On the other hand, Britton notes, a returning Clay Buchholz will likely allow the club to move righty Ryan Dempster to the bullpen. You may recall that Dempster once served as the Cubs' closer back in 2005-2007.
- While the Orioles have been busy making waiver claims, the Pirates have been the most aggressive team over the course of August, reports Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Of course, the club recently added Marlon Byrd and John Buck, making further acquisitions seem unlikely. On the other hand, the Bucs are reportedly still interested in first baseman Justin Morneau.
Mariners outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse has been claimed off revocable trade waivers by the Orioles, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Morse is the second notable player claimed by Baltimore in as many days – last night they had the winning claim on the Twins' Josh Willingham.
Morse, 31, has struggled this season, posting a .226/.283/.410 slash line with 13 homers in 307 plate appearances. It's a significant dropoff for Morse, who boasted a career .295/.347/.492 line heading into this sesaon.
The 70-61 Orioles are in need of an offensive upgrade as they look to make their playoff push. They're not likely to leapfrog the Red Sox and Rays for the AL East crown, but they are just 4.5 games back of the A's for the final Wild Card spot. In total, Baseball Prospectus' number crunch gives them an 8.8% chance of making the postseason.
Here's Monday's list of players that have been placed on revocable trade waivers…
- Yovani Gallardo — Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) reports that Gallardo has been placed on waivers by the Brewers. The starter drew interest this summer as a player who could help not just for 2013, but beyond, as he is under contract for $11.25MM next season with a $13MM club option for 2015. Gallardo is having a down year, but he has had two strong starts against the Reds this month since coming off of the DL. For his career, Gallardo owns a 3.76 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9.
- Mike Morse — Rosenthal also reports that Morse was placed on waivers by the Mariners. Morse's teammate, Kendrys Morales, was claimed off of waivers earlier today, giving Seattle two bats to dangle to interested clubs. Will either player be moved? We can surmise that the M's held on to impending free agents like Morse, Morales, and Raul Ibanez with the idea of retaining them beyond this season. On the year, Morse owns a .227/.282/.414 slash line with 13 homers in 301 plate appearances – down from his career line of .285/.338/.480.
- Heath Bell — Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Bell, 35, has been placed on waivers. He came to the Diamondbacks from the Marlins this offseason in a three-team trade that also included the A's. Bell has rebounded, to an extent, from a rough 2012 season that saw him post a 5.09 ERA in his only season with the Marlins. He's pitched to a 3.88 ERA with 10.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate. His HR/FB ratio is at a sky-high 17.2 percent, which has bloated his ERA. xFIP predicts that with a league-average HR/FB rate (roughly 11 percent), Bell would have an ERA of 3.05. His K/BB numbers and the fluky nature of high HR/FB rates suggest he's in for some improvement in the ERA department, but he's under contract for $9MM this season and again in 2014. The Marlins are picking up $8MM of that salary, but he'd be an expensive acquisition. I'd expect Bell to clear waivers.
- Javier Lopez — Heyman also tweets that the 36-year-old Lopez has been placed on waivers by the Giants. Lopez has a masterful 1.99 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a monstrous 64 percent ground-ball rate. He drew significant interest from multiple teams prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. San Francisco GM Brian Sabean reportedly had exorbitant asking price at the time, seeking top prospect Danny Salazar from the Indians in exchange for Lopez. A free agent at season's end, Lopez is owed roughly $813K over the remainder of the year and seems likely to be claimed.
For a reminder on how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR's August trades primer. You can see who is available to be traded to any team by checking MLBTR's list of players who have cleared waivers. Zach Links contributed to this post.
Though the Rangers worked to bolster their struggling lineup at the deadline, GM Jon Daniels felt the market for bats was thin, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. “There was not a lot out there really appealed to us,” he said. "Teams now are signing young players long-term and you aren’t getting the same caliber of player to free agency that you once did.” The Rangers rank ninth in the AL in runs per game but are 47-9 when scoring four or more runs, Grant notes. Here's more out of the AL West..
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik hinted that he hopes to re-sign some of the club's veterans, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Jack Z inferrred that he didn't deal pending free agents Mike Morse or Kendrys Morales because he'd like them to be a part of the club going forward.
- The Astros inquired about Royals prospect Kyle Smith in talks last year before finally nabbing him in this week's Justin Maxwell trade, GM Jeff Luhnow tells Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Though his club wasn't aiming to trade Maxwell, the team jumped at the chance when Smith's name came up in talks, Luhnow says.
- The Rangers didn't add a bat, but the deadline wasn't a failure, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
- While the Bud Norris deal leaves a hole in the Astros' rotation, they have some arms coming up through the minors including Brad Peacock and Asher Wojciechowski, notes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.
12:11pm: Saunders is not a target for the Orioles right now, hears Connolly.
10:57am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Orioles feel the asking prices remain too high in their pursuits of upgrades to their offense and rotation.
10:47am: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that the O's kicked around the idea of acquiring Morneau but don't see a fit due to his contract and lack of production. Nothing has heated up in recent days, he adds.
Baltimore's interest in both players has been well-documented to this point, though they appear to have shown more interest in Norris than Morneau. Norris is controllable for two additional seasons and earning just $3MM in 2013, while the slumping Morneau is a free agent at season's end and is owed an additional $4.6MM through season's end.
12:00pm: Aside from the Rays and Orioles, three or four other teams are interested in Morse, according to Peter Gammons on MLB Network.
6:07am: Mariners outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse is very available, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Morse, 31, recently returned from a long layoff due to a quad strain and is headed for free agency after the season.
The general vibe so far has been that the Mariners are not motivated to strip down their team, even at 8.5 games out in the wild card. Morse, acquired from the Nationals in January, has a .246/.307/.445 line in 231 plate appearances. From 2010-12, he hit .296/.345/.516 in 1,298 plate appearances for the Nats, so he has the potential to be the impact bat the trade market seems to be lacking with nine hours to go until the deadline.
The Mariners are in active trade discussions involving closer Tom Wilhelmsen and reliever Oliver Perez, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Orioles are actively pursuing Perez and Mike Morse, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, and would like to acquire both. The Rays are interested in Morse, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
- Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com names the Orioles as a primary team involved in talks for the Phillies'Michael Young, along with the Rangers and Red Sox. The versatile Young appears to make the most sense for Baltimore as a DH, Edes says. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reported earlier this evening that the Rangers aren't planning to reunite with Young.
- A top Orioles scout was in Seattle this week as the Mariners took on the Twins, who have made Justin Morneau available, Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun reports. An industry source tells Connolly that the Orioles have asked the Twins about the former MVP, who will earn about $6MM over the rest of the season, though the talks are considered "preliminary." As Connolly notes, DH might be Baltimore's biggest hole.
- The O's have liked Seattle's Mike Morse for years, Connolly adds. Morse, 31, is currently rehabbing a quadriceps injury in Triple-A, but has hit .251/.313/.454 in 227 plate appearances so far this year, appearing mainly in the outfield. Connolly also says the O's could add still another arm, potentially a lefty for a late-inning role, noting that the Mariners'Oliver Perez could fit that bill. However, "the sense within the organization" is that the Orioles might be done shopping, as the team is hesitant to add payroll and won't send top prospects in a deal for a rental player.
Aaron Steen contributed to this post.