MLB Free Agency/Trades: Pinpointing Each Team's Biggest Regret of the Offseason
Each MLB team has experienced some form of offseason regret in terms of free-agency signings or trades that didn't quite pan out as expected.
There is no exact science or perfect formula used to determine the perfect transaction—way too many variables are in play. A free agent could be looked upon as the perfect solution for a particular team's need, and the decision is then made to acquire that free agent to fill that need.
Seems easy, right?
Well, one only has to look at Chone Figgins and Jason Bay to see that it's never that easy.
At times, a regret can include a transaction that wasn't carried out. Not pulling the string on a particular trade or not making an offer to a free agent can, at times, be an MLB team's biggest regret.
In looking at the current offseason, each team has already engaged in various transactions designed to bolster its roster for the 2013 season and beyond.
Here are the regrets each MLB team has so far this offseason.
Note: Some of the content has been gathered from an article I wrote late last year.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Not Convincing the Texas Rangers to Trade Andrus or Profar
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Last month, the Arizona Diamondbacks entered into a three-team, nine-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians. The deal netted them talented young shortstop Didi Gregorius.
Finding a shortstop was one of the biggest offseason priorities for the Diamondbacks.
But did they get the person they were looking for?
Earlier in the offseason, there was much speculation about the Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers discussing a deal that would have sent right fielder Justin Upton to Texas. However, the Rangers would not discuss dealing away either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar.
It seemed clear that Andrus was the Diamondbacks' first choice. Instead, they "settled" with Gregorius instead.
Gregorius was the Reds' fifth-highest ranked prospect at the time of the trade, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. His defensive abilities are highly regarded, but the bat is still in question.
If Gregorius can quiet critics by proving himself offensively at the major league level, then the trade will look good in everyone's eyes.
If not, fans will rue the fact that the Diamondbacks didn't do enough to acquire Andrus or Profar.
Atlanta Braves: Not Signing Cody Ross
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With the retirement of Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves' offseason plan appeared to include moving current left fielder Martin Prado back to third base. With that move, finding a left fielder was definitely a priority.
It appeared the Braves were very interested in free-agent outfielder Cody Ross to fill the void. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks landed him instead, signing Ross to a three-year, $26 million contract.
It now appears that the Braves will settle on internal options.
If the Braves do not make another roster addition, they would most likely enter the season with the plan to shuttle Martin Prado between left field and third base.
Against right-handed starting pitchers, (Juan) Francisco could play third base, with Prado positioned in left field. When facing a left-hander, the Braves could use Reed Johnson in left field and Prado at third.
That arrangement would at least address some of the doubt regarding Francisco's ability to hit left-handers. He has batted .190 in just 63 at-bats against lefties at the Major League level.
Francisco has performed well in Dominican Winter League. However, it's certainly no guarantee of future success in the majors.
With relatively few options left in free agency, not signing Ross could prove to be a major regret.
Baltimore Orioles: Not Signing Adam LaRoche—Yet
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The Baltimore Orioles have been one of most inactive teams this offseason. To date, their biggest transaction was the signing of Nate McLouth to a one-year deal.
The Orioles made the playoffs last season despite a run differential that was barely above water. While they were 29-9 in one-run games last season, they can't expect to pull that off two years in a row.
There is an answer to address that need, however, and it's right inside the Beltway: first baseman Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche has yet to sign a deal with the Washington Nationals, largely because of the Nats' insistence on a two-year deal.
LaRoche and his 33 HR and 100 RBI would certainly go a long way toward helping the Orioles offense and fixing the run differential of last season.
Boston Red Sox: Signing Stephen Drew
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The Boston Red Sox gave shortstop Stephen Drew a one-year, $9.5 million contract. It appeared to be a signing that would allow prospect Jose Iglesias one more year to develop his bat.
Could Drew become the second family member to be a regret for the Red Sox?
Older brother J.D. Drew signed a five-year, $70 million contract with the Red Sox back in 2006. He suffered through a spate of injuries during his stint with the team and never seemed to live up to his contract in the eyes of fans.
Little brother Stephen struggled after returning from a gruesome ankle injury, finishing with a .223/.309/.348 triple-slash line in 327 plate appearances between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's.
This is a signing that screams overpay. And it very well could prove to be a huge regret.
Chicago Cubs: Not Signing Jeff Keppinger
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Third baseman Jeff Keppinger will be suiting up for his seventh team in nine seasons this April when he takes the field for the Chicago White Sox.
The other team in the Windy City could well regret not pushing harder to sign him.
The Chicago Cubs were one of the teams aggressive in their pursuit of Keppinger before he fractured his fibula after falling down the stairs at his home in November.
Now, the Cubs are banking on Ian Stewart to bounce back from wrist surgery, hoping he can display some of the power seen in his earlier years with the Colorado Rockies.
Without a doubt the Cubs settled on a risky Plan B option here.
Chicago White Sox: Not Re-Signing A.J. Pierzynski
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Catcher A.J. Pierzynksi wanted to end his career with the Chicago White Sox.
The White Sox could well regret that won't happen.
“It was really one of those things that just never seemed like it was going to work out,’’ Pierzynski said. “It just seemed like they made some calls, but it never got to the point where it was, ‘Hey, let’s move on something.’
‘‘At the same time, am I disappointed? Any time you’ve been eight years in a place, you’d love to go back, and I’d like to have finished my career there. But I’m excited and looking forward to a new place and a new challenge. I wish those [in Chicago] nothing but the best.’”
New White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the team had other "pressing needs."
Apparently, returning a catcher who had a career year in terms of production didn't qualify as a pressing need.
Cincinnati Reds: Moving Aroldis Chapman to Starting Rotation
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The Cincinnati Reds signed reliever Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million contract in late November. The signing all but confirms that former closer Aroldis Chapman will move to the starting rotation in 2013.
Why mess with success?
Chapman was nearly invincible in the closer's role last season. His 15.3 K/9 rate, 38 saves and 1.51 ERA were simply incredible numbers, and the Reds' late-inning trio of Broxton, Sean Marshall and Chapman were a force in the final two months of the season.
Matt Snyder of CBS.com offers up this little tidbit about Chapman:
According to brooksbaseball.net, Chapman has thrown 2,151 fastballs, 366 sliders, three changeups and one splitter in his entire big-league career.
That lack of variety might cut it as a starter if Chapman could throw over 100 miles per hour pretty much throughout the game, but who has that kind of stamina? As a starting pitcher, Chapman can't go all out from the first pitch to the last, as he'll need to find a way to work deep into the game.
Not many starting pitchers in history can make it using just two pitches. Chapman's success using his bread and butter in the ninth inning simply won't cut it as a starter.
Seems to me that Mariano Rivera has had a pretty successful career as a closer using just one pitch—Chapman could certainly follow suit.
Cleveland Indians: Exercising the Option on Ubaldo Jimenez's Contract
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The Cleveland Indians guaranteed that starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez would get a raise in the 2013 season by picking up the 2013 option on his contract.
Jimenez was 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA in 31 starts for the Indians in 2012. And for that level of mediocrity, he received a $1.55 million raise.
Where else in any other industry can anyone get a raise for completely stinking up the joint?
Colorado Rockies: Not Trading Dexter Fowler for Starting Pitching
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The Colorado Rockies would like nothing better than to improve their starting pitching for 2013 and beyond.
They clearly had a trade chip to use in center fielder Dexter Fowler, but were unwilling to unload him unless they were completely blown away.
Considering they can't entice anyone better than Jeff Francis via free agency, they could very well regret their hard-line stance.
Detroit Tigers: Not Signing Rafael Soriano
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The Detroit Tigers bolstered their 2013 roster with the signings of Torii Hunter and Anibal Sanchez. They clearly seem prepared to make another World Series run.
However, are they really going to make that run using internal options in the closer's role.
Rafael Soriano remains out there without a contract, and the market for his services continues to shrink. At this point, a one-year deal for Soriano just might make sense.
Considering the apparent win-now mentality that exists in Detroit, it certainly couldn't hurt.
Houston Astros: Passing on Lance Berkman for Carlos Pena
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In December, the Houston Astros announced they had signed free-agent slugger Carlos Pena to a one-year, $2.9 million contract. Pena will be the Astros' designated hitter as they prepare for their move to the American League West Division.
Pena hit .197 last year for the Tampa Bay Rays and registered a career-high 182 strikeouts.
The Astros had spoken to Lance Berkman earlier in the offseason, but with the signing of Pena, the possibility of Berkman returning home to Houston is remote at best.
This could well be a decision that Houston regrets. While Berkman played in only 32 games last year because of knee injuries, the bat still plays. It certainly plays better than Pena's bat.
Kansas City Royals: Not Trading Jeff Francoeur
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The Kansas City Royals signed Jeff Francoeur to a two-year contract last offseason, hoping he could replicate his 2011 season.
It didn't quite work out that way.
Francoeur hit 50 points lower in 2012 (.235 from .285), and his OPS dropped 140 points (.665 from .805) after signing his new deal.
Meanwhile, the Royals dealt away the prospect (Wil Myers) who could have replaced Francoeur in the outfield.
The Royals certainly received value in return for Myers, receiving James Shields and Wade Davis in a move that bolstered their starting rotation. However, now they're stuck with a right fielder in the final year of his contract—one who might not give them much value in return at any point next season if he continues to falter at the plate.
Los Angeles Angels: Not Trading Vernon Wells
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The Los Angeles Angels seem to be set after a series of trades and free-agent signings already this offseason.
One deal that wasn't made, however, could be one they regret.
Vernon Wells looks to be the fourth outfielder for the Angels in 2013. With Josh Hamilton in right field, Peter Bourjos in center, Mike Trout in left and Mark Trumbo handling most of the DH duties, Wells will be a $21 million bench player.
The Angels would have to pay the vast majority of the remaining money left on Wells' deal ($42 million) to any team in order to pull off any deal.
But at this point, the deal has already been a bust, why not at least explore the option of getting what they can out of it?
Los Angeles Dodgers: Signing Zack Greinke
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The Los Angeles Dodgers made Zack Greinke the richest right-handed pitcher in history when they signed him to a six-year, $147 million contract.
This deal simply smacks of an overpay, and one that the Dodgers will regret someday.
Greinke becomes the fourth $20 million-plus player for the Dodgers, joining Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp.
Clayton Kershaw, arguably their best player, isn't yet among that group.
"Yet" being the operative word.
Greinke is paid more than Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver and Matt Cain—all of whom have arguably out-performed him over the past 2-3 seasons.
Greinke is a former Cy Young Award winner, but that was three years ago.
The Dodgers made sure they got their man by out-bidding all other competitors, but in the end, it could well be a decision they'll come to regret.
Miami Marlins: Not Trading Giancarlo Stanton
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The Miami Marlins have thus far traded everyone of note from last year's team, save for Ricky Nolasco, Greg Dobbs and Giancarlo Stanton.
The Marlins should absolutely be exploring deals at this point. Stanton would bring back a package of prospects that would set Miami up well for the future.
They're certainly not going anywhere now, even with Stanton in the lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers: Inactivity over the Offseason
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The Milwaukee Brewers recently signed reliever Mike Gonzalez to a one-year contract. Thus far, they've bolstered their bullpen with the signing of Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny, along with trading for Burke Badenhop.
But that's been it for the offseason thus far.
Owner Mark Attanasio has indicated the need to scale back because of decreasing revenue along with a local TV contract that's one of the worst in all of baseball. However, they're heading into next season with an ace in Yovani Gallardo and a group of youngsters in the starting rotation that come with question marks.
Standing pat for the rest of the offseason doesn't bode well for their chances in the NL Central Division next season.
Minnesota Twins: Not Trading Justin Morneau
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With a relatively light free-agent market for first basemen this offseason, the Minnesota Twins had a perfect opportunity to offer up a trade chip.
Justin Morneau is still with the Twins and has only one year left on his contract that pays him $14 million.
With upgrades still needed for the pitching staff, not dealing Morneau could be considered a regret.
The Twins traded for Vance Worley and signed free agents Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey. Whether or not that represents an upgrade remains to be seen.
Dealing Morneau and offering up some cash for his considerable salary could also have helped the Twins reach their goal of improving the second-worst pitching staff in the American League. It would have given a permanent home to Joe Mauer in the ongoing effort to protect his health as well.
New York Mets: Not Re-Signing Scott Hairston
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So far this offseason, the New York Mets are acting like a team that’s still in financial disarray.
They at least signed their face of the franchise—David Wright—to an eight-year, $138 million contract extension. However, they traded Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays rather than sign him to an extension. And they’ve made virtually no other moves of note.
For a team short on outfielders and power, their inability to re-sign Scott Hairston is a mistake at this point.
Hairston hit 20 home runs in just 377 at-bats last season for the Mets at the bargain price of $1.1 million.
The sticking point for the Mets is Hairston’s request for a multi-year contract—something he’s never had in his career. The Mets have thus far balked at giving more than one year.
It’s not like Hairston is looking for a Wright-like contract—he simply wants two years. Even if the Mets triple his annual value, it’s worth it in the long run, considering the lack of options left on the open market.
New York Yankees: Not Extending Robinson Cano
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The New York Yankees have always employed a policy of not offering extensions for players until their current contracts expire. The new New York guidelines also suggest a more prudent mindset as the Yankees attempt to get underneath the luxury tax threshold by the 2014 season.
All of that means that it is highly likely that second baseman Robinson Cano will just be too expensive for the Yankees to re-sign.
Cano’s agent is Scott Boras. He always advises his clients to hit free agency and collect top dollar.
Not extending Cano before now will leave the Yankees without their most consistent offensive producer and will leave a giant hole in their infield.
Oakland Athletics: None
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Thus far, the Oakland A's have done pretty much what they set out to do this offseason.
They needed a shortstop. They signed Japanese star Hiroyuki Nakajima.
They needed an additional offensive weapon for their outfield and at designated hitter. They traded for Chris Young.
They re-signed Bartolo Colon to add a veteran presence in their starting rotation. And they added Travis Blackley and re-signed Pat Neshek to fortify their bullpen.
At this point, considering the financial restraints and relative poor attendance, there wasn't a whole lot more the A's could do. But they certainly made the moves necessary to keep their team in contention in the American League West Division.
Philadelphia Phillies: Going over Luxury Tax Threshold—Maybe
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Up until now, the Philadelphia Phillies have never had to pay a “Competitive Balance Tax,” the term used for the luxury tax that has been in place in Major League Baseball since 1997.
They fell just $4 million short of the threshold in 2012.
This coming year, the Phillies will come dangerously close to the $178 million threshold once again. But that may not stop general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. from climbing above it if the right opportunity were to arise.
"I haven't been given any ultimatums as far as [the luxury tax] is concerned, but there is a limit to where we want to be right now," Amaro said. "I also think it's important to give ourselves a little flexibility for the trade deadline in case we want to do some things there, too. Not just dollar-wise, but personnel-wise, too. We're looking at all possibilities to improve the club, and if we can do it and we think it's the right thing to do, we'll move on it."
However, does it makes sense to do so unless it guarantees a postseason berth?
The Phillies and their $174 million payroll last season fell far short. Their abundance of $20 million-plus players are another year older.
With the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves continuing to improve and staying well below the tax threshold, the Phillies should do what they can to avoid crossing that line.
Picking up young players under team control like center fielder Ben Revere is a smarter play at this point.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Not Signing a Setup Man
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Now that the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded closer Joel Hanrahan, the recently re-signed Jason Grilli will assume the closer’s role.
That now means that one of the players the Pirates received in exchange for Hanrahan, Mark Melancon, will be given the opportunity to be Grilli’s setup man.
Considering Melancon’s dismal 2012 campaign, I’d be very worried if I were a Pirates fan.
Melancon posted a miserable 6.20 ERA in 41 games at the major league level for the Sox last season.
The Pirates are encouraged by the fact that Melancon has a career 2.85 ERA in the National League during his time with the Houston Astros.
I’m not nearly as convinced.
Moving Grill up makes sense—he posted an outstanding 13.8 K/9 rate last year. However, given Melancon’s obvious struggles last year, the Pirates may be better served by finding another option as Grilli's setup man.
San Diego Padres: Not Taking Advantage of New Ownership and New Money
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The new ownership group for the San Diego Padres took over in late August with these words: to “underpromise and overdeliver.”
Thus far, the delivery has been minimal.
The Padres have easily been one of the least active teams this offseason. They brought back starting pitcher Jason Marquis with a one-year, $3 million deal, but little else.
It’s understandable that general manager Josh Byrnes has balked at overpaying for free agents, preferring to bolster his roster via the trade route.
He apparently hasn’t seen any trades that tickled his fancy yet.
In any event, the last thing that Padres fans want to see is a level of inactivity similar to that of former owner John Moores.
San Francisco Giants: None
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The San Francisco Giants have done all they set out to do this offseason.
They re-signed the three players (Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro) they wanted back to help keep their World Series team intact.
They also brought back former star Andres Torres to help out in left field, along with Gregor Blanco.
Can't really find a whole lot to regret with those particular moves. Considering they're returning almost their entire roster, not much to regret at all.
Seattle Mariners: Not Doing More to Improve Upon an Impotent Offense
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The Seattle Mariners have finished last in runs scored in the American League for the past four seasons. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what their obvious need was headed into the offseason.
Thus far, they have addressed that need by signing the under-performing Jason Bay, the 40-year-old former Mariner Raul Ibanez and trading for first baseman Kendrys Morales.
Morales should be of help—he hit .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI after being out of baseball for 18 months with a broken ankle.
Ibanez should add some punch as well, but at this point in his career, it’s hard to imagine an everyday role. Bay is a complete enigma considering his last three seasons with the New York Mets.
If this is the best the Mariners can do, it may be enough to get them out of the run-scoring cellar, but nothing even close enough to competing in the improving American League West Division.
St. Louis Cardinals: Letting Kyle Lohse Go
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When the St. Louis Cardinals announced last August that they had signed starting pitcher Jake Westbrook to a one-year contract extension, it signaled the end of the road for fellow starter Kyle Lohse.
Lohse put up the two best years of his career, compiling a 30-11 record and 3.11 ERA in 2011 and 2012. However, he would have been a much more expensive option for the Cardinals—hence their decision to go with Westbrook instead.
Could that be a decision they rue in the future?
Lohse was clearly looking at a raise. But could have signed a deal that was agreeable to both him and the Cardinals before reaching the end of his deal?
Just something to think about.
Tampa Bay Rays: Not Going After Adam LaRoche
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The Tampa Bay Rays pulled off a major deal this offseason, dealing away pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals for top hitting prospect Wil Myers.
They also signed free-agent first baseman James Loney to a one-year, $2 million contract.
The Rays have been on the hunt to add more offense. However, there’s no guarantee that Myers will have any impact next season. In addition, Loney’s offense has been almost non-existent at a position that demands production.
The Washington Nationals and free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche have yet to seal the deal on a multi-year contract. If the Rays are keen on improving offensive production next season, they should be advancing talks with LaRoche and be willing to offer up a third year.
The risk in signing LaRoche is the fact that the signing team loses a draft pick next year. Considering the depth of the Rays’ farm system, it’s not that serious of a hit for them.
Loney and his .249 average, .630 OPS and six home runs is not the answer at first base.
Texas Rangers: Not Signing Josh Hamilton
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The Texas Rangers lost out on the services of free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, and that's mainly because they simply didn't make his signing a priority.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com seems to think so.
According to Morosi:
Hamilton wasn’t the Rangers’ first choice among free agents. Zack Greinke was. He wasn’t their first choice among readily available outfielders. Justin Upton was — and may still be. Amid the spin following Hamilton’s sudden decision to join the Angels for five years and $125 million, it’s obvious that re-signing Hamilton wasn’t much of a priority for the no-longer-reigning American League champions.
This is the third year in a row the Rangers have told free agents to go out, find a deal and circle back to them.
Cliff Lee in 2010 and C.J. Wilson in 2011 both bolted. And now Hamilton, although Hamilton never apparently circled back.
Who can blame him, considering the Rangers' failed negotiating stance?
The Rangers are no longer the reigning American League champions. They were during Hamilton's best years.
This is a bargaining stance that clearly failed the Rangers.
Toronto Blue Jays: None
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The Toronto Blue Jays put it all out there in terms of doing everything possible to upgrade their roster for the 2013 season.
They didn't just bolster—they're now clearly aligned as a favorite in the American League.
They added Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera to upgrade the top of the batting order and provide run-scoring opportunities for sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista.
They added R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to team with Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero to form a scary starting rotation.
They added Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis, creating a healthy combo at second base.
It's hard to pinpoint any regrets at this point.
Washington Nationals: Trading Michael Morse—Maybe
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Washington Nationals left fielder Michael Morse is clearly in a holding pattern right now.
With talks stalled between the Nationals and free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, Morse’s future with the Nationals is still in doubt. If LaRoche signs, many believe that Morse will be offered up in trade to bring back depth and prospects.
However, is it really the right move?
Morse has been productive in his time with the Nationals. He broke out in 2011 with 31 home runs and a .303 batting average, then backed it up with 18 homers and a .291 average in just 102 games last season.
His current contract ($6.75 million in 2013) is certainly manageable, and he can provide protection in both corner outfield spots as well as at first base. He can also be used as the designated hitter as the interleague schedule expands next season as well.
I’m much more inclined to see the Nationals hang on to Morse—he’s a proven commodity who can produce no matter where he is on the field.
Dealing him would qualify as a regret in my mind.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.