When the Nationals opted to re-sign Adam LaRoche for two years plus an option this week, it all but spelled the end of Mike Morse‘s time in the nation’s capital. Morse is in his final year of arbitration, a defensive liability who is completely out of places to stand around and wait to hit in Washington. The Nats re-upped with LaRoche so first base is out, Denard Span gives them a real centerfielder to play between Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.
Until the NL comes to its senses, there is no designated hitter spot in which to hide the hulking masher. So he’s out. As expected, teams are lining up for Morse’s services – such as they are. While a right-handed power bat is always in season, a few things about Michael Morse might give some buyers pause.
As previously stated, Michael Morse is not a defender. He splits time between left field and first base, traditionally, though he is not particularly adept at either.
This hot shot might not be the fairest indictment of Morse’s range but it certainly puts “fall down range’ into perspective – espeically for a player who came up as a shortstop and third baseman. Really! Considering his age and relative fragility (only playing 150 games once in his career), DH is the best place for Morse.
Except that Morse wants nothing to do with designated hitting, not even a little bit.
Ken Rosenthal cited big league sources who claim Morse is “strongly opposed” to DHing in an article this week. Though Kenny claims deals sometimes “turn” on such details, no team seriously considering a move for Morse considers him anything but an emergency defender.
Without knowing the exact details, one needs to look no further than Morse’s positional splits.
Not suggesting that his DH numbers are bad for any particular reason, but Mike Morse knows Mike Morse’s numbers as a DH very well – especially after putting up a .461 OPS in 2012 when pencilled in as the designated hitter. Any hint of doubt at his own ability to perform in that role is all would take for a player to balk at taking on that job full time.
The Red Sox, Yankees, and Mariners are among the prospective landing spots for the Morse. The Mariners are desperate to add another power bat, though their “guys without positions” cup runneth over right now. The Red Sox remain mired in the the Napoli mess and the Yankees are too busy shaking change out of the Steinbrenner couches to spend more money on a limited player.
The Rays are always a threat, lurking around players like Morse who have PED skeletons in their closet. The Rays also have something the Nationals desperately want – a very good left-handed reliever in Jake McGee.
With three AL East challengers looking to keep pace with the Blue Jays (!!!), the bidding could get hot and heavy as these teams look to not only add Morse to their respective stables but keep him from slipping to one of the others. Rosenthal likes the Red Sox chances but nearly every team with even a glimmer of hope and a spot on their roster could be in on Morse.
Michael Morse might not cash in big time in free agency but the Nats are well-positioned to take advantage of his status and single year of control. An ageing player with a history of injury doesn’t make the smartest free agent buy but, for the price of a reliever or pitching prospect, teams looking for a one-year bump from Morse will get some nice power and patience for their playoff chase.
Good business for everyone – everyone except Mike Morse, of course. Stuck DHing then heading into free agency a broken man in his thirties? Better hope it isn’t a Seattle homecoming, Mike. Playoff bonuses go a long, long way.