"We're talking away, I don't know what I'm to say, I'll say it anyway, today's another day-e to find you, shyin' away, I'll be coming for your love, OK? Taaake on meeee..." - A-ha, "Take On Me."
The Washington Nationals announced Friday night that they'd avoided arbitration and bought out two arbitration years by agreeing on what is reportedly a 2-year/$10.5 million dollar extension with 29-going-on-30-year-old first baseman/left fielder Michael Morse. The extension with the seven-year MLB veteran, the Nats noted in a press release on the deal, "... was agreed upon prior to arbitration figures being exchanged and was contingent upon a since-completed physical." CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman had previously reported on the figures submitted earlier this week, writing on Twitter that Morse had asked for $5.0 million dollars while the Nats had filed at $3.5M.
• Morse Comes To Washington...
(ed. note - "Edited from a post on Morse last winter.")
Two days before the June 30, 2009 trade with Pittsburgh that sent outfielder Lastings Millege and reliever Joel Hanrahan to the Pirates in exchange for outfielder Nyjer Morgan and reliever Sean Burnett, the Washington Nationals made an under-the-radar deal with Seattle, sending veteran outfielder Ryan Langerhans to the AL West's Mariners in return for a then-27-year-old former Chicago White Sox' draft pick named Michael Morse, in what the GM said afterwards was a trade that was a favor to Langerhans.
The Nationals had scouted Morse as the general manager told NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman last summer in an article entitled, "A Minor Trade That Paid Major Dividends", and though Seattle was at first reluctant to part with the over-sized shortstop, they did, and as the Nats' GM explained to MLB.com's Bill Ladson at the time of the trade in an article entitled, "Nationals acquire Morse from Mariners", the Nationals, "'... also made the trade to reward Ryan for his loyalty to the organization."
"He had a big Major League opportunity, and I didn't want to stand in his way,' Rizzo said."
Drafted out of Nova High School in Davie, Florida as a shortstop, Morse, a 3rd Round pick by the Chicago White Sox in the 2000 Draft, had nine doubles, five triples, and 11 HR's in 54 games and 209 at bats at Double-A Birmingham over which he had a .287/.336/.536 line in his fourth season in the organization (his first at Double-A) when he was dealt to Seattle in 2004. After the trade, the infielder had a .274/.326/.465 line, 10 doubles, one triple and six HR's in 41 games and 157 at bats for the Mariners' Double-A affiliate. Morse started the 2005 campaign with the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers, and made his MLB debut that May.
At Triple-A in '05, Morse had a .253/.317/.407 line with 12 doubles and four HR's in 49 games and 203 plate appearances before he was called up to Seattle, where he had a .287/.349/.370 line with 10 doubles and 3 HR's in 72 games and 258 plate appearance as a rookie. In September '05, Morse was suspended for 10 games for a failed steroid test in 2003. (ed. note - "You can read about the suspension and Morse's explanation here in an AP article at the time archived at ESPN.com.")
Morse saw time in the outfield, at third and at first in 2006 with Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle, but he suffered a knee injury which limited him to 78 games on the year, 21 of them with the Mariners, over which Morse had a .372/.396/.488 line. At Triple-A Tacoma in '06, Morse had a .248/.300/.403 slash line in 57 games and 228 plate appearances. Morse played just nine games in the majors in '07. At Rookie ball and Triple-A in 2007, Morse, playing first, short, third and left, put up a .304/.367/.451 line, earning another call up to Seattle late in the season.
A strong Spring which saw Morse hit for a Cactus League-best .492 AVG earned the slugger a platoon spot in right field in Seattle when the 2008 campaign starter, but he suffered a torn labrum diving in the outfield which ended the then-26-year-old's season. After debuting with 72 games for Seattle in 2005, Morse played just 35 games for the Mariners over the next three seasons.
14 doubles and 10 HR's into the '09 campaign, Morse had a .312/.370/.481 line in 66 games at Triple-A in the Mariners' system when D.C. GM Mike Rizzo made the deal for Langerhans. The then-27-year-old Morse had a .339/.404/.558 line with 12 doubles and six HR's at Triple-A Syracuse in the Nats' system when he was called back to the majors in late-August finishing the year with the Nationals with a .250/.291/.481 line in 32 games and 55 plate appearances with the Nationals.
A calf strain cost Morse a month at the beginning of the 2010 campaign, but given the chance to play more games in the majors than he had since 2005, Morse stood out, hitting 15 HR's and posting a .289/.352/.519 line in 98 games and 293 plate appearances with the Nationals. Morse started 2011 as part of a platoon in left, and filled in at first last season when Adam LaRoche went down with a shoulder injury, putting up a .303/.360/.550 line with 36 doubles and 31 HR's in 146 games (a career-high in the majors) and 575 plate appearances (also a season-high), finishing up at +3.4 fWAR after a previous-best +1.1 WAR 2010 season.
The right-handed hitting power bat, "... led the Nationals in all three Triple Crown categories (.303 [AVG], 31 homers, 95 RBI) and became just the fourth qualified National to hit .300 since the club came to DC in 2005," the Nationals wrote Friday night in the press release on the deal. Asked where Morse figured in the Nats' future plans with LaRoche due back in 2012 (before all the Fielder-to-D.C.-chatter started), D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said on 106.7 the FAN's The Mike Rizzo show last August that Morse, "... has done enough to solidify himself to hit in the middle of [the Nats'] lineup that's for sure. In a perfect world we get the Adam LaRoche that we signed that's a 25-HR, 100-RBI Gold Glove [calilber first baseman]," the Nats' General Manager explained, "Mike Morse goes to left field and is a 25-35 HR, 100-RBI left fielder and we've really replaced two powerful bats in the lineup."
Morse has a big fan in Nationals' manager Davey Johnson too, who was asked this past September how long Morse had to continue to produce in the majors before he could legitimately be considered "for real?"
"It's real right now," the Nationals' manager said "He knows what he's trying to do. He knows his approach. He knows how they're trying to pitch him. He's got tremendous power the other way and obviously they're going to try to pound him in and he knows how to get at it. So, he knows the strike zone, he's learning more about the strike zone inside, and you see him taking more pitches, not even offering at them inside. That's when you know a hitter's got a good command of the strike zone and he also knows what they're trying to do." Morse has a .295/.353/.536 slash with 51 doubles and 49 HR's in 276 games and 923 plate appearances since the deal with Seattle, and the Nationals rewarded the slugger by buying out his final two years of arbitration. Morse is pencilled in as the Nats' starting left fielder with a month left before Spring Training.