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Michael Morse Rumors
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.
7:17pm: The Rangers have no plans to bring back Young, major league sources tell T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. A trade for the infielder "is not going to happen."
12:56pm: The Phillies and Rangers have had discussions about a trade shipping infielder Michael Young back to Texas, reports ESPN's Jayson Stark. We learned yesterday from CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman that the Rangers were considering Young internally. Talks have been "exploratory" in nature, says Stark, and the clubs are not close to an agreement.
For the Rangers, Stark echoes recent reports that the team is focused on acquiring a right-handed bat. With Texas focused primarily on nabbing a player who can man the outfield, he says that Young is more of a back-up option. In addition to other players previously linked to the Rangers — such as Alex Rios of the White Sox, Hunter Pence of the Giants, Justin Ruggiano of the Marlins, and Kendrys Morales of the Mariners – Stark notes that Seattle's Michael Morse is on Texas's radar.
On the Philadelphia side of the ledger, sources tell Stark that the Phils have indicated an increasing willingness to listen on veterans after the team's recent slide. The names that could generate attention include — unsurprisingly — Young, catcher Carlos Ruiz, closer Jonathan Papelbon, and ace Cliff Lee. (We learned about Lee's potential availability yesterday.) As has long been been the case, Young is believed to be the most likely among those players to swap teams before the deadline. Other potential suitors for Young include the Yankees, Red Sox, and Reds.
Here are a few National League notes as we head into the weekend:
- Padres utilityman Alexi Amarista has switched his representation to Martin Arburua, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Per MLBTR's Agency Database, Amarista was formerly represented by Proformance. The 24-year-old, who has slashed .280/.309/.452 in 98 plate appearances thus far in 2013, is set to be arbitration eligible beginning in 2015.
- The Nationals are approaching opt-out deadlines for two left-handed relievers that are currently stashed in the minors, explains James Wagner of the Washington Post. Both J.C. Romero and Bill Bray are eligible to elect free agency in June if they are not added to the big league roster. While Washington still has uncertainty in its lefty bullpen options, with Zach Duke scuffling and Fernando Abad only recently added to the squad, its decisions on Romero and Bray will be complicated by injuries to the two southpaws. Romero last saw action on May 8; Bray's last appearance was May 14. Of course, the Nats could always seek to extend those opt-out dates, which could be beneficial to both the team and the players.
- The major decision facing the Nationals this past offseason was whether to bring back free agent Adam LaRoche and, if so, what to do with slugging outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse. With over a quarter of the season in the bag, the Washington Post's Adam Kilogre looks back at the team's ultimate decision to re-sign LaRoche and send Morse to the Mariners. Given the way the season has developed, Kilgore posits, Morse would likely have already been able to achieve over 100 at-bats even with LaRoche in the fold. It is easy to second-guess the decision with Morse's solid start (.244/.310/.462 but with ten long balls) and the struggles of young power-hitter Tyler Moore (.121/.157/.227 and just one home run in 70 plate appearances). Nevertheless, Kilgore explains, the club was not only concerned with carrying Morse's salary and relegating a still-in-his-prime veteran to a secondary role, but needed to recoup some future value after dealing high-end prospect Alex Meyer for center fielder Denard Span.
- As Kilgore notes, the Nats not only landed high-upside pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen in the Morse trade, but also were entitled to a player-to-be-named later. The PTBNL turned into another arm, left-handed reliever Ian Krol, who has flashed promise in his time with the organization. Kilgore points out that Krol has given up only two runs over 22 2/3 innings while working out of the pen for the Nats' Double-A affiliate. The 22-year-old Krol adds another internal option to supplement the team's less-than-inspiring southpaw relief corps.
Jeff Frye, Darren Oliver's agent, was apparently not speaking for his client when Frye said earlier this month that Oliver wanted a raise to return to the Blue Jays or else the veteran southpaw would retire, Oliver said during a conference call with reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca). "I was out of town when that article was written, and I didn't say those things, that was coming from Jeff Frye," Oliver said. "Obviously if I had something to say, I would have said it a long time ago, not once did I ever demand anything from the Blue Jays or Alex [GM Alex Anthopoulos]." The Jays announced today that Oliver would return to pitch in Toronto in 2013.
Here are some more items from around the AL East…
- David Price's one-year deal with the Rays was structured in a way that both saved Price several hundred thousand dollars in taxes and also gave the Rays the ability to potentially save $4MM in salary deferred to Price in 2014 if the southpaw is dealt by then, reports Jon Paul Morosi for FOX Sports.
- Price loves playing in Tampa Bay but knows the franchise has financial limits and feels a responsibility to get a fair multiyear contract, the Rays ace tells Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown. "I don't want to mess up for the future of other guys that could be in my position as well," Price said. "You don't want to do that, because that's not only affecting you, that affects everybody else. I want to be happy. I don't want to sell myself short. I guess 'appreciation' is the word I could use the most. I just want to feel appreciated."
- The Red Sox talked to the Nationals about Mike Morse but Washington's asking price was too high, reports Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. Now that Morse has been dealt to the Mariners, Abraham wonders if Mike Carp is now expendable in Seattle and could fit as left-handed bench depth in Boston.
- Xander Bogaerts is "as close to untouchable as any player in the Boston organization," writes CSNNE.com's Sean McAdam in an interview with the highly-touted Red Sox prospect. Sox GM Ben Cherington reportedly turned down several trade offers involving Bogaerts this winter.
- Mark Hendrickson looked good during a tryout at the Orioles' minicamp today and will pitch again for the team on Friday, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. We heard earlier this week that Hendrickson is trying to return to the Major Leagues as a sidearm pitcher.
- In AL East news from earlier today, the Orioles extended Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette, the Yankees avoided arbitration with Phil Hughes and the Red Sox made progress with Mike Napoli.
It's no secret that the Mariners have been desperate for solutions to their league-worst hitting in recent years. From moving in the fences at Safeco Field to aggressively pursuing top free agent batters, the M's have been determined to add pop and M's general manager Jack Zduriencik feels the team's latest addition of Michael Morse has helped solidify the lineup, amongst other offseason moves. Zduriencik told reporters during a conference call today that Morse's big bat was worth giving up a solid catcher like John Jaso.
"[Jaso] added a lot to our club last year but I think when you are in the position to acquire an everyday guy who has a chance to hit the ball hard and hit the ball far, I think it does change your game," Zduriencik said. "One of the things we have seen since I have been here is our lack of raw power; in Michael we have got a guy who has got big-time power.
Between Morse and the other additions, the Mariners suddenly have several options at DH, first base and the corner outfield spots, as young incumbents like Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders and Jesus Montero still need to find at-bats. In Montero's case, he will be expected to become the team's everyday catcher, though Zduriencik said he is looking for some veteran depth at the position.
"We're going to be shopping, there's no doubt," Zduriencik said. "We've already talked to some people and had some discussions with people….We like our catching in the organization and we've got some pretty good kids right on the horizon."
The foundation of the trade was developed when Zduriencik touched base with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo after the season and told him that he was interested in some of Washington's hitters. The two general managers reconvened recently since the Nats now had some hitting to spare with Adam LaRoche re-signed, and the A's were brought into the mix since Oakland GM Billy Beane had recently spoken to Zduriencik about Jaso's availability.
"It just became a three-team conversation," Zduriencik said. "So at the end we were able to satisfy what we wanted and I think Oakland was able to satisfy what they wanted and [Rizzo] got back prospects that he was seeking."
Morse, for his part, said he was very excited about returning to Seattle, where he spent the first four years of his Major League career before being dealt to the Nats before the 2009 season. With just a year left on his current contract, Morse just said "that's why I've got those agents" in regards to the possibility of talking about an extension, but he was clearly happy that the Mariners were the trade suitor that emerged to make the deal.
"I knew there were teams involved, I knew Seattle was one of them. That was one of the teams I was hoping for," Morse said. "I love it out there and I always felt…I had unfinished business in Seattle. I never got to prove myself as the player I could be or who I am. This is another opportunity for me to show Jack and help his ballclub be the World Series champion ballclub that it should be."
Morse said he was fully recovered from the back injury that forced him to spend the first two months of the 2012 season on the DL, even joking that he was feeling good enough to play shortstop for the first time since 2007. It was reported earlier this month that Morse wasn't keen on being a designated hitter but said that he was willing to play whenever the M's wanted him to play.
"I feel very comfortable at first base or in the outfield and it doesn't hurt to get a breather sometimes at DH," Morse said. "My main goal is to play every single game. I'm so excited, words can't describe what me and my family are going through right now."
The Mariners, Nationals and Athletics have combined on a three-team trade that will send Michael Morse to the Mariners, John Jaso to the A's and a three-player package to the Nationals that includes minor league right-handers A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen and a player to be named from the Athletics.
The Mariners have been searching for hitters all winter long and now add Morse, who has hit 64 homers over the last three seasons and posted a .291/.321/.470 line in 430 PAs for Washington in 2012. It's a bit of a homecoming for Morse, who spent the first four years of his career in Seattle before being swapped to the Nats for Ryan Langerhans. The right-handed hitter could see time in either corner outfield spot or at first base, possibly sharing time with Justin Smoak and other newly-acquired veteran bats as Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay. Jaso's departure also clears the way for Jesus Montero to catch everyday, and the M's also have top prospect Mike Zunino waiting in the wings.
Morse has been a strong trade commodity ever since the Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche. At least five or six teams had shown interest in Morse, with the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox among those linked to the first baseman/outfielder. Morse turns 31 in March and is scheduled to hit free agency next winter.
Cole is on his way back to the Nationals organization after being dealt to the A's last winter as part of the trade package for Gio Gonzalez. Cole, 21, was drafted by the Nats in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and was rated as the 57th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the season. In 27 starts for two of Oakland's A-ball affiliates, Cole posted a 3.70 ERA, 133 strikeouts and 29 walks over 133 2/3 innings, though the major bulk of that success took place at low A-ball.
Treinen, 24, was the Athletics' seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft. The righty has a 4.13 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.1 H/9 in 133 innings over two pro seasons and made 15 starts last year.
The left-handed hitting Jaso enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, hitting .276/.394/.456 in 361 PAs, the large majority of which came against right-handed pitching. He will likely step right in as Oakland's regular catcher against righties, with the right-handed hitting Derek Norris in line for at-bats against southpaws. Jaso, 29, is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is under Oakland's control through the 2015 season.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post first reported the trade and the major teams and players involved. Earlier this evening, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that the M's were close to acquiring Morse. Morosi, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times and the Nationals' Twitter feed also added more details about the package going back to Washington.