Biggest Winners and Losers of 3-Team Michael Morse to the Mariners Trade
Slugging outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse became expendable the minute the Washington Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche, and they agreed to trade him on Wednesday.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Morse has been dealt as part of a three-team trade to the Seattle Mariners. They're getting Morse, the Nationals are getting pitching prospect A.J. Cole, and the Oakland A's are getting catcher John Jaso. The Nationals are also getting minor league right-hander Blake Treinen and a player to be named later.
Morse and Cole are both going home in this deal, so to speak. Morse first came up with the Mariners in 2005, and Cole was drafted by the Nationals in 2010. He was part of the trade that netted Washington Gio Gonzalez from the A's last year.
As with any big deal in baseball, there are winners and losers of the Morse-to-Seattle trade. Let's discuss.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Winner: Washington Nationals
Earlier this offseason, Nats GM Mike Rizzo was forced to part with a top pitching prospect when he traded hard-throwing right-hander Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins for Denard Span.
In turning Morse into Cole, Rizzo has taken care of the vacancy left by Meyer.
Cole doesn't have Meyer's sky-high ceiling, but Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com is of the mind that Cole has a realistic chance to be a frontline starter down the road. He's a tall right-hander with a fastball in the mid-90s and offspeed stuff that's coming along. He did have trouble with his mechanics and his fastball command in 2012, but these are things that can be fixed.
The Nationals didn't get the left-handed reliever they were supposedly seeking for Morse, but they would have been fools to pass up a chance to turn Morse into a prospect who could one day be at the front of their rotation. They can fill their need for a lefty reliever with a free agent, or perhaps with another trade.
Or they could just be content with what they have after signing Rafael Soriano on Tuesday. After that and now the Morse trade, the Nats are just about set for 2013.
Loser: Michael Morse
One guy who shouldn't be too happy about the Michael Morse trade is Michael Morse.
Sure, he's going back to a franchise that he knows well and there will be more playing time for him in Seattle versus Washington, but this deal isn't in his best interests from a business perspective.
The 2013 season is a walk year for Morse. He'll be in line for a nice free-agent contract if he has a big season, but Safeco Field is not known for being conducive to big seasons from power hitters. Even with the fences moving in, it's still a question mark as to how much power Morse will be able to hit for.
The fact that he'll be batting in an inferior lineup won't help. The Mariners do have some solid young hitters, and they made a nice trade to get Kendrys Morales, but their batting order won't exactly be Murderers' Row. Morse is going to miss hitting in Washington's stacked lineup.
Morse will get paid next offseason, but he needs to show his 2011 wasn't a fluke if he wants a big contract. It's going to be hard for him to do that in Seattle.
Winner: Oakland A's
That the A's managed to sneak into this deal and get John Jaso out of it is the most A's thing ever.
Not many people outside Seattle bothered to notice, but Jaso was a stud in 2012. He had a .276/.394/.456 slash line with 10 home runs in only 361 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, he had about the same weighted on-base average as Yadier Molina, which is saying something.
This is music to the ears of the A's, as they basically didn't get any offensive production out of their catchers in 2012. In all, their catchers managed just a .587 OPS.
Jaso is therefore a solid upgrade for a lineup that has gotten deeper than it already was this winter. First it was Chris Young, and now Jaso.
There's one guy on the A's, however, who can't be happy about this.
Loser: Derek Norris
The A's picked up Derek Norris from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, and he eventually found himself as the club's primary catcher.
In 60 games, Norris managed a .625 OPS and seven home runs. His real value, however, was in his rapport with Oakland pitchers. Per ESPN.com, Norris had a 3.13 catcher's ERA in 2012, which is pretty impressive for a rookie who had to do a lot of learning on the fly.
Norris was lined up to be Oakland's primary catcher in 2013, but that ship has probably sailed now that the club has Jaso. The team's newest acquisition is probably going to play against right-handed (see "most") pitchers, while Norris will only play against southpaws.
That's not necessarily a good thing for him. Norris actually had a lower OPS against lefty pitchers in 2012 than he did against right-handed pitchers. If he struggles at the plate in his new limited role, he'll probably find himself back in the minors.
And who wants that?
Winner: Tyler Moore
There never was any doubt that Morse was going to be traded once the Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche. But one guy who was probably sitting with his fingers crossed was Tyler Moore.
Now that Morse is gone, Moore can officially occupy the role Morse would have played.
Moore, who posted an .840 OPS and hit 10 home runs as a rookie in 2012, is a lot like Morse in that he's a right-handed slugger who can play first base and on the corners in the outfield.
With LaRoche at first base and all three outfield spots filled, Moore will be the rover that Morse would have been had he not been traded. He should also earn a place as Davey Johnson's go-to guy when he needs a right-handed pinch-hitter.
It's not a starting gig, but it sure beats the minors. Moore will take it.
Loser: Whoever Morse Robs of Playing Time in Seattle
OK, so we know the Mariners have Morse.
Exactly where he's going to play...well, that's another issue.
Morse could fit any number of roles for Seattle. He could start in either left or right field, and the Mariners also have the option of starting him at first base. Or they could just make him their primary DH.
Wherever he's primarily used, somebody's going to be out of some playing time.
If Morse is used as a starting outfielder, Casper Wells will likely have to either play another position or get comfortable on the bench. Morse could also rob new additions Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez of playing time.
If Morse is used primarily at first base, it's likely that Kendrys Morales would be the team's primary DH. That would mean no clear home for Justin Smoak.
You can rest assured that Smoak is hoping Morse is confined to the outfield. Now that Jaso is gone, Jesus Montero is free to catch on a regular basis, which means Morales is free to DH on a regular basis. And that, in turn, means that Smoak can play first base on a regular basis.
Somebody's going to get jobbed. Exactly who it will be is going to be determined in spring training.
Winner: Mike Napoli
Wait, what do Morse and Mike Napoli have to do with one another?
Simple: Now that Morse has been traded, the Boston Red Sox don't really have a choice but to hurry up and sign Napoli to be their first baseman.
They had the option of pulling away and trading for Morse instead, which Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported is something the Red Sox were considering. They want a right-handed slugger to play first base, and Morse fits that bill about as well as Napoli.
So much for that, and now there's no question that Napoli is really the only option the Red Sox have left to fill their need at first. They must know that, and so must he.
The word from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is that Napoli and the Red Sox are already progressing toward a solution. The two sides should continue to make progress, but Napoli may try to push the envelope a little in negotiations now that he knows Boston's best Plan B option is no longer available.
If he can use the Morse trade to his advantage, he will.
Loser: New York Yankees
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Yankees have missed out on a player who could have helped them.
It's been that kind of offseason for the Yankees. With Morse going to Seattle, yet another player the Yankees were rumored to be interested in has escaped their clutches.
Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reported shortly after Morse hit the block that the Yankees were interested in swinging a deal for him. He would have fit their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder with power quite perfectly, and he wouldn't have impacted their payroll plans for the 2014 season.
With Morse off the block and the Yankees supposedly cool on Scott Hairston, it's hard to tell where exactly they're going to turn to fill their need for a righty stick for their outfield.
Maybe they have something big in mind. Justin Upton, perhaps, or maybe even Giancarlo Stanton.
But probably not. That just wouldn't fit with their style this winter.
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