On June 28, 2009 the Seattle Mariners traded oft-injured slugger Michael Morse to the Washington Nationals in a deal that sent Ryan Langerhans to the M's. Three and half years later it appears the Mariners have reacquired the right-handed hitting and throwing OF/1B in a deal that, according to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, sends Morse to the Mariners, who in turn, have sent catcher John Jaso to the A's for right-handed pitching prospect A.J. Cole, who goes back to the Nationals a year after they dealt him to Oakland as part of the package for Gio Gonzalez. There are apparently more players involved whose names have yet to be announced, at least according to the Washington Times' Amanda Comak:
Hearing in addition to getting A.J. Cole back the #nats will also get a "good" prospect and a PTBNL in the deal for Morse.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) January 16, 2013
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi were first to announce the deal which has since been confirmed by several other sources:
A.J. Cole, 21, is a 2010 4th Round pick who was given a well-above slot deal to get him to sign in spite of a commitment to the University of Miami. After two seasons in the Nats' system, Cole was dealt to the A's last winter along with RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Tom Milone and catcher Derek Norris in the deal that brought Gio Gonzalez to the nation's capital. In Cole's one season in Oakland's system, the right-hander was a combined (6-10) with a 3.70 ERA, 29 walks and 133 Ks in 27 starts and 133.2 IP.
The Nationals gave Cole a $2M dollar bonus in August of 2010, the biggest bonus ever give to a 4th Round pick at that point. After they deal the right-hander, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was asked about the difficulty of parting with a pitcher they'd given such a big bonus and worked so hard to sign:
"The amount I paid for anyone had nothing to do with that. It pained me to move a 6'4'', 19-year-old pitcher that has a good arm, there's no question about it, but you get that guy in the 4th Round because you overpay him, so, again, great scouting, ownership allowing you do those kind of outside the box things. The plan three years ago was to attack the draft before the new CBA. That was our focus, that was our vision, that was our strategy going into it three years ago and we did it, we attacked it for the last three years and I don't think you'll see a draft class like last year's because of the new CBA rules, so..."
Cole was ranked as the 3rd best prospect in the A's system by Baseball America after the 2012 campaign. The Nationals have dealt away many of their top pitching prospects in the past two seasons in the Gonzalez deal and the trade this winter that brought Denard Span to D.C. from Minnesota in return for 2011 1st Round pick RHP Alex Meyer. The Nationals felt they could deal Michael Morse after acquiring Span and re-signing Adam LaRoche, which essentially left Morse without a position.
In discussing a potential trade after the LaRoche deal was announced, the Nats' GM said the team would have to get, "... either controllable major league help or prospects to help [fill] the minor league system," if they were going to deal the 30-year-old Morse. The Nationals acquired a pitcher tonight that they liked enough to overpay as a 4th Round pick just three years back but were willing to deal in return for Gio Gonzalez.
More info to come on the Nats' return...