In talking about what happens next, now that the Washington Nationals have signed 33-year-old first baseman Adam LaRoche to a 2-year/$24M dollar deal that includes a mutual option for a third season, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters on Tuesday that he would consider trade offers for 30-year-old slugger Michael Morse, whose role with the team is an issue now that first base is occupied and the outfield (with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth) is full. But that doesn't mean that the team is in any hurry to deal Morse, a player Rizzo described last night as, "an everyday middle of the lineup hitter," that's, "... fairly attractively priced."
Morse signed a 2-year/$10.5M extension last winter, so he is under contract for one more year (at $6.75M) before he becomes a free agent. Earlier this winter, Nats' skipper Davey Johnson told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, that he didn't see both LaRoche and Morse fitting on the Nationals' roster:
"'You know, it's tougher because once you have everyday players that have established their credentials in the major leagues and are pretty good, it's hard to start sharing roles. But that's part of the game of baseball. We might have to make a move if we get too heavy that way.'"
As Rizzo explained it last night, however, the Nationals don't have to make a trade. "He's a guy that financially we don't have to move," the GM said. "We'd move him in the right deal. We're certainly not going to give him away, but if we can make the right deal that works for Mike and for us as a franchise, we certainly will do that deal."
"Certainly in any trade that would include a Mike Morse-capable player," Rizzo explained when asked what Washington was expecting in return, "we'd like to get either controllable major league help or prospects to help [fill] the minor league system." The Nats have dealt several top pitching prospects in the past few seasons in the deals that brought Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span to D.C., and they've previously identified the lack of depth as a need as Rizzo did again last night. As for that left-handed reliever the Nationals are rumored to be after, the Nats' GM, who's already signed veteran relievers Bill Bray and Zach Duke this winter, said he would still like to add a left-hander if the right one is available.
"I think that the right left-handed reliever would be great," Rizzo said. "Davey [Johnson] likes to have at least two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. But we have a very unique and special type of bullpen. Our right-handers get out left-handed hitters better than most left-handed specialists get them out. So, it's not something that we feel that we have to do. We played in the free agent market on several of the left-handed relievers and couldn't get a deal done. And the reason for that is we feel that our right-handed relievers get out lefties and Davey's not a big left-on-left, one-batter-at-a-time-type of manager anyway."
"We feel good about our bullpen," Rizzo said, "And 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." Other teams have already been calling about Morse, the GM said. "He's a very attractive player to a lot of teams," Rizzo explained, whose, "... value is only increasing in the industry as free agents sign."
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) wrote on Twitter last night that 5-6 teams were interested in acquiring the right-handed hitting power bat who's put up a .294/.343/.514 line with 68 doubles and 67 HRs in 378 games and 1,353 plate appearances over the last four years in D.C.
In a follow-up report by the bow-tie wearing FOXSports.com writer, Mr. Rosenthal quoted major league sources who said that there might be a problem for American League teams interested in Morse's services, "Morse strongly opposes being a DH." All five teams the reporter puts in the market are AL teams, of course.
Mr. Rosenthal, who says the Nationals are looking for, "... high-ceiling prospects and possibly a left-handed reliever," in return, mentions four of five AL East teams as potential partners for the Nationals, placing the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox (if their deal with Mike Napoli doesn't go through) in the market for Morse with one executive he spoke to pointing to the Seattle Mariners as the favorites to land the slugger they traded to D.C. in return for outfielder Ryan Langerhans back in June of 2009.
The Nationals will trade Morse in the right deal. They have Adam LaRoche back and they have Tyler Moore as a backup at first if necessary. Morse might not want to be a DH, but he probably doesn't want to be a backup first baseman/bench bat either. Are the Nats comfortable with Moore as the alternative if LaRoche gets injured? The LaRoche signing ended one long period of speculation in the nation's capital. Now the Morse trade talk starts. Who wants a right-handed, home-run-hitting, middle-of-the-order bat?