Michael Morse Rumors
Yesterday, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said that he wants to return to the club in 2013 and GM Mike Rizzo is eager for him to return as well. Johnson is likely to be back in Washington as it will just take ownership approval to get a new deal ironed out. Here's the latest out of Washington, courtesy of MLB.com's Bill Ladson..
- The Nationals had preliminary talks about a contract extension with Ian Desmond earlier this season, a source told Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Ladson adds that it would not be a surprise to see the Nats and the shortstop start up talks again this winter. Recently, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post suggested that Desmond could be in line for a six-year, $45MM deal.
- A source indicated that opposing teams have expressed interest in Tyler Moore. The Nats may also look at trading Michael Morse. Both players are best suited for first base and their fit in Washington will hinge largely on what happens with LaRoche. As it stands now, both players figure to be involved in left field alongside Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.
- The source told Ladson that there could be a possible domino effect if Adam LaRoche isn't re-signed this winter. Ryan Zimmerman could potentially be moved to first base while Anthony Rendon would be given a chance to start at third.
- The same source quantified the odds of Edwin Jackson returning to the Nats at 50/50 as it seems doubtful that Rizzo would give the pitcher a long-term deal.
- It's almost a given that John Lannan will be non-tendered this offseason, according to a baseball source. Lannan earned $5MM in 2012 and spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A.
The Yankees will reach a crossroads with three of their most productive players this offseason when Nick Swisher hits free agency and Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano get a little closer to the open market. Jayson Stark surveyed MLB executives about the value of those Yankees and passed along the results in his latest column at ESPN.com. Here are the details and more notes from Stark...
- Two National League executives had no reservations about spending on Cano. “Pay him what he's worth," one said. The other said Cano has a legitimate case for a $200MM extension.
- The execs praised Granderson as a person but questioned his value on the field. A $100MM contract would be excessive in the view of one executive. Both Cano and Granderson will be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season, assuming the Yankees exercise their '13 club options.
- Similarly, the executives don’t consider Swisher a candidate for a Jayson Werth-type deal (seven years and $126MM). Swisher may look to match Werth’s contract as a free agent this coming winter.
- The Nationals have considered picking up their side of Adam LaRoche’s $10MM mutual option for 2013 and keeping Bryce Harper in center field, Stark reports. Alternatively, they could sign Michael Bourn when he hits free agency, move Harper to a corner spot and trade Michael Morse. I examined LaRoche’s option in detail last week, before his recent hot streak.
- The Phillies are looking at third base and left field options for next year and that search includes players already in the organization. One scout has been impressed by 26-year-old Darin Ruf, who hit 38 home runs at Double-A this year. "He might be Matt Holliday," the scout said, praising Ruf's hitting ability.
- An old friend of Roger Clemens doesn’t believe the seven-time Cy Young Award winner when he says he’s not thinking about playing at the MLB level. The person expects Clemens to sign with the Astros this month.
Here's the latest from around the league, courtesy of ESPN's Jim Bowden...
- The Padres have fielded offers for both Huston Street and Carlos Quentin, but they've yet to seriously debate any of them internally.
- The Tigers are seeking a second base upgrade and would like to acquire Darwin Barney from the Cubs for a mid-level prospect.
- The Indians are looking all over to acquire an outfield bat, but they are unable to take back a significant contract and are unwilling to move their best prospects.
- Meanwhile, the Royals are trying to convince the Indians or Reds to take Jeff Francoeur so they can promote Wil Myers from Triple-A.
- The Pirates are aggressively trying to land a middle of the order bat while the Orioles are seeking starting pitching and a third base upgrade.
- There have been rumors of a Mike Morse for B.J. Upton trade, according to Bowden. The Nationals are also looking to add a starter with Stephen Strasburg's innings limit approaching.
- The Giants have no plans of making a deal similar to the one they made last year, when they traded Zack Wheeler for a rental (Carlos Beltran). They are looking for a bat or two, however.
6:15pm: Morse's deal is worth about $10.5MM over two years, according to the Associated Press.
4:17pm: It's a two-year deal, MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweets. The agreement buys out Morse's two remaining seasons of arbitration eligibility.
3:25pm: The Nationals announced that they agreed to sign Michael Morse to a contract extension. The team agreed to extend Morse before this week's deadline for exchanging arbitration figures and Morse has since passed his physical, making the deal official. The ACES client filed at $5MM with the Nationals countering at $3.5MM.
Morse, 29, broke out with his best season yet in 2011. He posted a .303/.360/.550 line and hit 31 home runs while playing left field and first base. The Nationals acquired him from the Mariners in a 2009 trade.
Tim Dierkes recently previewed a possible deal between Morse and the Nationals, suggesting a three-year, $18.5MM extension with a club option for a fourth year might work for both sides.
Many players avoided arbitration today, but dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays and Braves have stuck to 'file and trial' policies in the past.
MLBTR's arbitration tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights -- players who filed for $4MM or more. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com had most of the info with MLBTR and others also contributing:
- Tim Lincecum filed at $21.5MM, while the Giants filed at $17MM, as noted earlier.
- David Ortiz filed for $16.5MM, while the Red Sox offered $12.65MM, Heyman tweets.
- Hunter Pence filed for $11.8MM, while the Phillies countered at $9MM, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets.
- Mike Napoli filed for $11.5MM while the Rangers countered at $8.3MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jeremy Guthrie filed for $10.25MM, while the Orioles filed at $7.25MM Heyman tweets.
- Matt Garza filed for $12.5MM, while the Cubs countered at $7.95MM, Heyman tweets.
- Clayton Kershaw filed for $10MM, while the Dodgers countered at $6.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- Shaun Marcum filed for $8.7MM and the Brewers countered with $6.75MM, according to the Associated Press via MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
- Russell Martin filed for $8.2MM, while the Yankees offered $7MM, MLBTR has learned.
- Nelson Cruz filed at $7.5MM, while the Rangers countered at $5.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- Adam Jones filed for $7.4MM, while the Orioles offered $5MM, Heyman tweets.
- Miguel Montero filed at $6.8MM, while the Diamondbacks filed $5.4MM according to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter).
- John Lannan filed for $5.7MM, while the Nationals countered at $5MM, Heyman tweets.
- Alex Gordon filed at $5.45MM, while the Royals countered at $4.15MM, Heyman tweets.
- Asdrubal Cabrera filed for $5.2MM, while the Indians countered at $3.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Michael Morse filed at $5MM, while the Nationals countered with $3.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- Andrew Bailey filed for $4.7MM, while the Red Sox filed for $3.35MM, Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com tweets.
- Brandon Morrow filed for $4.2MM, while the Blue Jays countered at $3.9MM, MLBTR has learned.
Michael Morse's emergence for the Nationals began in 2010, when he hit 15 home runs in a half-season. Given the chance to play every day in 2011, Morse's production more than held up. The first baseman/left fielder hit .303/.360/.550 with 31 home runs in 575 plate appearances, snagging a couple of down-ballot MVP votes.
Morse turns 30 in March and has four years and 114 days of Major League service time. Matt Swartz's projections for MLBTR call for approximately a $3.9MM salary for 2012, Morse's second time through arbitration. The Nationals control him for the 2013 season as well.
Morse is represented by ACES, an agency that has shown an openness to extensions in the past. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has a few on his ledger as well, for Ryan Zimmerman and Sean Burnett. As a player who will be 30 when the season begins with one full strong season on his resume, I imagine Morse will be more open than most to signing an extension two years away from free agency.
Comparables will be hard to come by. Two players who signed three-year deals with between four and five years of service might be factors: Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Pena. Cuddyer and Pena signed three-year extensions for about $24MM in January of 2008, guaranteeing two arbitration years and one free agent season. Cuddyer's contract had a club option for a second free agent season.
Cuddyer and Pena actually weren't directly comparable. Cuddyer was not coming off his best season, and had accumulated his service in a normal way. Pena was coming off a monster 46 home run, 121 RBI campaign after spending most of 2006 in the minors. Morse's platform year sits between that of Cuddyer and Pena, and his career AVG/OBP/SLG tops Pena if batting average is considered. However, Morse gets crushed in career counting stats, having only one full season to his credit. Morse has 383 career games and 1260 plate appearances, compared to 600+ games and 2300+ plate appearances each for Cuddyer and Pena. Plus, Cuddyer and Pena signed four years ago.
Morse, ACES, and the Nationals might have to forge somewhat new territory. I propose $3.5MM for 2012, $6MM for 2013, and $9MM for 2014, for a total of $18.5MM over three years. The Nationals will probably want a club option for a fourth year, perhaps at $10MM. If the $18.5MM range seems low, remember that Morse earned only $1.35MM in 2011 and his 2012-13 salaries will stem from that amount.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.
Michael Morse could be "the biggest bargain in baseball," writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. Morse, earning just $1.05MM this season, is hitting .311/.360/.552 for the Nats and is under team control through 2013. Boswell warns that it could be too early for Washington to explore a multiyear deal with Morse, however, given that Jayson Werth "could be the next overvalued Vernon Wells" in terms of an albatross contract and Morse is still somewhat unproven.
Some more Nats notes, courtesy of another Washington Post writer, Adam Kilgore...
- Ian Desmond has drawn interest from several teams but the shortstop is considered one of the Nats' core players and GM Mike Rizzo has stated the club isn't moving any of those pieces.
- Jason Marquis and Livan Hernandez are getting the most trade interest of any of Washington's starters, though the club isn't "actively shopping" either hurler. Kilgore hears from one Major League executive that the Nats' "perception of [Marquis'] value exceeded that of the league’s" and thus Marquis wouldn't be dealt.
- Ryan Zimmerman, who has known B.J. Upton since childhood, endorsed the idea of Upton coming to Washington. "I mean, I like the team we have here,” Zimmerman said. “Anytime you had talented players to your team, it gives you a better chance to win. That’s the ultimate goal. If he’s going to help us win, I’d love to have him on our team.” The Nationals have been interested in Upton for a while, but Kilgore notes that the team is looking for a long-term answer in center field and Upton is only under contract through 2012.
On this date in 2004, the newly acquired Richard Hidalgo homered in his fifth consecutive game for the Mets, giving him eight homers in his first 16 contests with New York. Hidalgo would go on to hit 21 homers for the Mets in '04, but he played his last MLB game a year later. Here are the latest links from his former division...
- Jayson Werth told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that he doesn't regret signing in Washington last winter. The outfielder says he's happy with his decision, but unhappy with his offensive production. He has a .221/.326/.377 line since signing a $126MM deal with the Nationals.
- Michael Morse of the Nationals tells Crasnick that he feels like a late bloomer. The 29-year-old outfielder, who had just 392 MLB plate appearances before last season, now has 15 homers and a .536 slugging percentage.
- The White Sox seem interested in Atlanta's pitching, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. The Braves could be in the market for an outfielder and may attempt to find a proven leadoff hitter like Juan Pierre.
- Bowman notes (on Twitter) that he won't be surprised if the Braves don't make a significant move this month.
Nats centerfielder Rick Ankiel may not be able to return to action when he's able to come off the disabled list next week. From the standpoint of delaying decisions, that might be a good thing, writes Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com.
Roger Bernadina has filled in at leadoff hitter and center fielder, and manager Jim Riggleman says that he'd like to keep it that way. If he remains in that role, it would leave Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Michael Morse to fight over playing time in left.
Other than optioning Bernadina back to Triple-A Syracuse, the club won't have many ways to fit everyone in. Riggleman says that the club will figure things out when Ankiel is healthy, a point that could be approaching soon.
1:23pm: Heyman says (on Twitter) the Nationals are not inclined to trade Morse to the Phillies, or anywhere else for that matter. They're intrigued by the work he's done with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
12:29pm: After losing their top right-handed power threat this offseason, the Phillies have asked the Nationals about the availability of outfielder Mike Morse according to SI.com's Jon Heyman (on Twitter). Philadelphia's lineup is predominantly left-handed with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Domonic Brown, something that might be exposed with the departure of Jayson Werth.
Morse, 29 next month, hit .289/.352/.519 with 12 doubles and 15 homers in just 293 plate appearances for Washington last year, his first regular playing time in the big leagues since 2005. He crushed lefty pitching, hitting .295/.374/.625 with eight long balls against them in just under a hundred trips to the plate. Although he has experience on the infield, most of Morse's playing time has come in the corner outfield spots in recent years. He'll earn $1.05MM in 2011, the first time he was eligible for arbitration.
The Nationals outfield is pretty crowded right now, with only Werth guaranteed a full-time job. The other two spots will go to some combination of Morse, Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and Nyjer Morgan. Jerry Hairston Jr. can also play the outfield, and the Nats have both Matt Stairs and Laynce Nix in camp on minor league contracts.