With the re-signing of free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals fan favorite Michael Morse may have become expendable. He is the odd man out now that Washington has LaRoche back in the fold and recently acquired center fielder Denard Span is ready to join Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield.
After taking over at first for the injured LaRoche in 2011, Morse put together his best season ever, batting .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI. The Nationals gave him a raise to $3.25 million in 2012 and he was expected to move back to the outfield if LaRoche returned. However, Morse suffered a back injury in spring training and did not see action until June. A thumb injury suffered in August also caused him to miss time and hampered his play when he returned.
While Morse suffered an injury plagued 2012, LaRoche established himself as the every day first baseman and the Nationals brought up rookie sensation Harper to play center field. LaRoche and Harper helped lead the Nationals to their first NL East pennant and post season appearance.
Despite the play of LaRoche and Harper, Washington knew going into the off season that they would have to decide whether to bring their Gold Glove winning first baseman back and keep Harper in center. Whatever decision the team made would have a direct affect on Morse.
The outfield move came first. The Nationals traded for Span in November and immediately penciled him in to play center. This meant that Harper would join Werth as a corner outfielder and Morse would no longer play left. Morse’s only real chance of remaining a starter with Washington was if LaRoche was not re-signed.
For a while, it seemed as though LaRoche and the Nationals would not be able to reach an agreement, but on Monday they did. LaRoche signed a two year $24 million contract on Wednesday and Morse became a bench warmer. The only way that he will return to the starting lineup is if someone gets hurt.
There is still a chance that Morse will be a starter next season, but only if Washington trades him to another team. Fortunately, Morse has done enough on the field to make him valuable to the Nationals or someone else. Early trade rumors have the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners expressing interest. The Yankees are always looking for a power hitting designated hitter and Morse would fit the bill. The Mariners know Morse, because he made his major league debut there and spent four years with the team.
Until a deal is made, Morse’s name will continue to come up. Washington General Manager Mike Rizzo will not trade him for just anyone. The Nationals always like to get value for whomever they deal. If the GM does not, he will keep Morse until he does. Rizzo will have no problem having Morse as a backup at first and in the outfield going into the season.
However, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Morse will be gone by spring training.
He is the odd man out in the Nationals off season of personnel moves.