Wire Taps: Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo Scouts Javier Vazquez In Puerto Rico; Michael Morse Market

Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was reportedly in Puerto Rico last night where the 52-year-old executive watched 36-year-old right-hander Javier Vazquez pitch for the Criollos de Cagua in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente. Meanwhile, back in D.C., chatter about Michael Morse continued...

Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was in Puerto Rico last night to watch 36-year-old right-hander Javier Vazquez pitch for the Criollos de Cagua against the Cangrejeros de Santurce according to a report by FOXSports.com reporter Ken Rosenthal. Vazquez "retired" after pitching for the Florida Marlins in 2011, but ended his 14-year MLB career with a stretch of 14 starts in the second half of his last season in which he was (8-3) with a 2.15 ERA, 16 BB (1.49 BB/9) and 96 Ks (8.96 K/9) in 96.1 IP. Tonight in Puerto Rico, the Montreal Expos' 1994 5th Round pick struck out 10 and gave up six hits, a walk and one earned run in 6.0 IP.

Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore reported on January 3rd that the Nats sent, ".. a top scout to evaluate," the Ponce, Puerto Rico-born Vazquez in a previous start in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente.

The "team official" the WaPost reporter spoke to said that the Nationals were impressed enough to consider offering Vazquez a minor league deal with an opt out that would allow, "... the pitcher to ask for his release by a certain date if [he was] not added to the major league active roster," as Mr. Kilgore wrote. FOXSports.com's Mr. Rosenthal confirmed the reports of the Nationals' interest last week, listing them as one team that had scouted the right-hander, though more recent reports including one by MLB Network Radio host Jim Bowden, have said that as many as 15 teams have contacted the veteran right-hander. Vazquez, who's said to want to pitch for a contender, told MLB.com's Bill Ladson he would consider the Nationals should he decide to return.

The Nats' GM was impressed with what he saw from Vazquez Wednesday night, telling El Nuevo Dia reporter Luis Santiago Arce, as quoted on Twitter, "'He looked great, in very good shape.'"

• FWIW: Washington was reportedly interested in Vazquez before he signed a 1-year/$7M dollar deal with Florida in November of 2010.

In a teleconference Tuesday night after the announcement that Adam LaRoche would return to D.C. on a two-year deal, Rizzo talked openly about the Nationals' interest in adding pitching depth to the organization and entertained the possibility of trading Michael Morse, telling reporters that if the right deal came along he'd consider moving the 30-year-old slugger who hit 17 doubles and 18 HRs while posting a .291/.321/.470 line over 102 games and 430 plate appearances in a +0.3 fWAR 2012 season shortened by a lat injury and hand/wrist issues. Should the Nats trade Morse, Rizzo said he'd like to get, "... either controllable major league help or prospects to help [fill] the minor league system," in return.

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal quoted sources in an article this week who said the Nationals were asking for, "... high-ceiling prospects and possibly a left-handed reliever." Rizzo admitted as much Tuesday night, though he said when it came to the lefty, "... it's not a necessity to get a left-handed specialist-type of reliever, but if one made sense for us we certainly wouldn't rule it out." The Nats' GM said he'd received several calls about Morse and described the right-handed hitting and throwing OF/1B as being a, "... very attractive player to a lot of teams," while suggesting that Morse's, "... value is only increasing in the industry as free agents sign."

Sources ESPN.com's Buster Olney spoke to for an article Wednesday night, however, made it sound like it might be difficult for the Nationals to get the return they're after should they decide to move Morse. According to Mr. Olney, interested teams would be reluctant to part with top prospects in a deal for Morse since the 6'5", 245-pound beast hits free agency after 2013, has no "natural position" and has proven to be an injury risk. As Rizzo said Tuesday night, the Nats will consider trading Morse in the right deal, but they're, "... certainly not going to give him away."

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