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Michael Morse Rumors
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.
It has been six weeks since the Red Sox and Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year, $39MM contract. The holdup in finalizing the deal is concern with one of Napoli's hips and the team's desire to write protective language into the contract. Recently, we learned the Red Sox are continuing negotiations with Napoli, but would like to shorten the deal to just one year and have been in contact with the Nationals about Mike Morse. A major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this about Napoli's hip, "It’s one of those things where it could go anytime or five years from now. Nobody really knows, which is why the Red Sox want strong language after putting $40 million on the table for him.” Cafardo believes it's starting to make sense for the Red Sox to trade for Justin Morneau or to make Daniel Nava a first baseman/left fielder. More from Cafardo:
- That Kyle Lohse is still available at this late date is somewhat of a stunner to Cafardo. Lohse's market has been stunted with him being tied to draft pick compensation and that no one seems willing to go beyond two years, although several teams needs starting pitching and his stuff translates to both leagues.
- Draft pick compensation has also shrunk the market for Michael Bourn. Another factor, according to a NL GM, has been the Twins trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere and the Braves signing B.J. Upton.
- Cafardo thought it was strange for Justin Upton to reject his trade to Seattle since it's one of the nicest cities in the country and the fences at Safeco Field have been moved in.
- Cubs President Theo Epstein has come to realize Alfonso Soriano is an excellent clubhouse presence because of his willingness to help younger players. With that and his excellent 2012 season, Epstein wants a player of note in any deal where the Cubs eat a majority of the $36MM left on Soriano's contract.
- Discussions to include Garrett Jones in the Joel Hanrahan trade never progressed very far because "the Pirates really valued Jones highly," a major league source told Cafardo.
- One NL GM told Cafardo Roy Oswalt may still want to pitch, but on his terms and perhaps for only a half a season. Many teams have given up trying to persuade the 35-year-old to pitch, feeling the vibe is that he just doesn’t want it bad enough. Cafardo also notes Oswalt suffered a forearm strain at the end of his time with the Rangers last season.
- Bobby Valentine has turned down some opportunities to serve as an advisor for teams. Valentine has instead decided to focus on expanding his restaurant business, growing his film company, and working for NBC Sports since being fired as manager of the Red Sox.
Minutes after news broke that Adam LaRoche had agreed to return to the Nationals on a two-year deal, the speculation about trades involving Michael Morse began. Morse, a free agent next offseason, offers right-handed power at a time that it’s very much in demand. The Nationals don’t have an everyday role for him after signing LaRoche, but many other teams are interested. Here’s the latest on Morse, starting in the American League East…
- The Yankees called the Nationals about Morse after Washington signed LaRoche, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports (on Twitter). The sides will eventually discuss a deal, but the Nationals weren’t ready to talk trades when the Yankees first called.
- The Red Sox are one of the teams in contact with the Nationals about Morse, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Rosenthal suggests Morse could be an alternative to Mike Napoli at first base in Boston. However, the Red Sox would need to part with young talent and possibly a left-handed reliever to obtain Morse.
- The Rays have also been linked to Morse, who's drawing interest from several teams.
The Yankees could have another tricky negotiation with Derek Jeter on the horizon, writes Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York. Jeter is entering the last guaranteed year of his current deal and he holds a 2014 player option worth $9.5MM ($8MM in base salary plus $1.5MM that Jeter has thus far earned in incentives). If Jeter comes back from offseason ankle surgery and continues to hit well, the Yankee icon will surely be looking for a longer commitment beyond 2014. Knowing the Yankees' stance on extensions, however, I'd expect the team to not discuss another deal with Jeter until after the 2014 season, when Jeter will be 40 years old and the Bombers will have a better idea if their captain is worth another multiyear contract.
Here are the latest items from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have "nothing alive" with the Nationals in regards to a deal for Michael Morse, reports Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees blog (Twitter link). New York was one of several teams interested in Morse, who has been on the trade block since the Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche.
- In an interview on WEEI radio's Hot Stove Show (partial transcription from WEEI.com's Kirk Minihane), Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said that there is no news about the team and Mike Napoli. The Sox are continuing to talk with Napoli while also exploring other options at first base.
- Speaking of those first base options, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox "have explored" signing Casey Kotchman and Nick Johnson and also checked in with the Mariners about a trade for Justin Smoak.
- The Orioles are looking for pitching depth as they head into Spring Training, executive VP Dan Duquette tells MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. Though the O's haven't made any major transactions this winter, Duquette believes his team has improved itself, though he did vaguely mention a few deals that didn't happen. "We looked around the industry for that middle-of-the-order bat," Duquette said. "There was one free agent that was a significant player. There have been some other players available in a trade that I'm not sure they were better than what we had, and the cost of the acquisition has been a little pricey for us."
Mike Morse remains a prime piece of trade bait and earlier this afternoon we learned Adam LaRoche sought a no-trade clause as part of his new two-year deal with the Nationals. He did not receive one, however. Here's the latest on the Nats and Orioles…
- Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) doesn't see the Nationals getting much for Morse. The 30-year-old is eligible for free agency next fall and GMs aren't eager to give up good prospects for a player in that situation. Some GMs have told Olney privately that while they like Morse, they can't see surrendering much for him due to his defensive shortcomings and lengthy injury history.
- Meanwhile, MLB.com's Matthew Leach says Morse is a very intriguing trade chip for the Nationals. He lists the Orioles, Yankees, Giants, Mariners, Rays, and Rangers as clubs who could have interest in the slugger.
- Nate McLouth says he re-signed with the Orioles in large part because of the team chemistry in Baltimore, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The outfielder inked a one-year, $2MM deal with the O's in December.
- Jonathan Bernhardt of Sports on Earth argues that the Orioles' lack of activity this offseason was the best of several bad options.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
In the wake of re-signing Adam LaRoche, the Nationals are speaking to 5-6 teams about a trade involving Mike Morse according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The 30-year-old right-handed hitter will earn $7MM in 2013 before qualifying for free agency after the season. He's hit .296/.345/.516 over the last three years. Here's the latest on Morse…
- Morse is opposed to being a designated hitter, major league sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Trouble is, Morse isn't highly regarded defensively.
- The Yankees are indeed among the interested teams, Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Nationals are seeking a left-handed reliever and/or prospects in any Morse swap, reports ESPN's Jim Bowden (Twitterlinks). Amanda Comak of The Washington Times hears the asking price was high at the Winter Meetings.
- The Nationals believe the Rays would make a great trade partner for Morse, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson (on Twitter). Tampa has a strong prospect base from which to build a package.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com points out that the Mariners, Indians, Rays, Rangers, Yankees, Phillies, and Mets all need a bat and could target Morse (Twitterlinks). Rosenthal doubts Washington would trade him within the division to Philadelphia.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
It was on this day in 1974 that the first real "free agent" signing in modern baseball history was made by (who else?) the Yankees when they inked Catfish Hunter to a five-year, $3.75MM deal. Hunter was freed from his previous contract with the A's after an arbitrator ruled that the club has breached the terms of the right-hander's deal, thus paving the way for Hunter to sign with New York. The deal was a record for its time, as Hunter was earning three times as much money as any other Major League player.
Here are some items from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have learned several lessons in 2012 including Alex Rodriguez is less dependable than ever and their fiscal cliff is real, according to LoHud.com's Chad Jennings.
- Right-hander Stolmy Pimentel was part of the trade package the Red Sox sent to the Pirates in the Joel Hanrahan deal. WEEI.com's Alex Speier looks at Pimentel's career arc and wonders if his departure could signal a change in how the Sox value their prospects in terms of their trade value.
- Sergio Santos spent almost all of the 2012 season on the DL but his ability to provide depth at closer will be a major factor in the Blue Jays' playoff drive in 2013, writes Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star. Santos was expected to be the Jays' closer last year but Casey Janssen stepped into the job and performed well, making him the incumbent late-game choice heading into next season. Griffin thinks Santos will be the choice to take over the job if he stays healthy, though I don't see the Jays making a switch unless Janssen struggles. Just a reminder that you can keep track of all the closer news on MLBTR's sister Twitter feed @CloserNews.
- If the Nationals re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche but miss out on free agent southpaw J.P. Howell, MASNsports.com's Dan Kolko suggests that the Nats and Orioles could match up on a trade. In Kolko's proposed deal, the O's would send one of their several left-handed relief options to Washington as part of a package in exchange for Michael Morse, who would be expendable for the Nats if LaRoche was back in the fold.
- In other AL East news from earlier today, we learned the Rays are in the market for more relief pitching.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The Nationals want to settle their negotiations with Adam LaRoche, and could press for resolution soon, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Though general manager Mike Rizzo wouldn’t issue the free agent first baseman an ultimatum, he might deliver “something close to it.”
The Nationals made LaRoche a two-year offer earlier in the offseason after he declined a qualifying offer. Rizzo could tell LaRoche that the Nationals intend to proceed with internal options if he doesn’t accept their offer, Kilgore writes. If LaRoche signs elsewhere — teams such as the Orioles and Rangers could be interested — the Nationals would rely on Michael Morse at first base. If LaRoche accepts the Nationals’ offer, Morse would become a trade candidate. LaRoche wants a three-year deal, but he’s tied to draft pick compensation, which could be limiting his free agent value.
The Nationals aren’t worried about the possibility of another team offering LaRoche a three-year deal, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio reported today (Twitter links). In that scenario the Nationals would obtain a compensatory draft pick from the signing team. The Nationals won’t give LaRoche a three-year deal, according to Bowden, the team’s former GM.