What do the Nationals do with Michael Morse?
July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
Heading into the season it was generally thought that Michael Morse would be a middle of the order, impact bat for the Nationals. His major power display for the final 4 1/2 months of 2011, after a solid partial season in 2010, left many fans thinking that Morse had reached his potential and had a bright future in DC. Now just a few months later there are legitimate questions about Morse's future in DC.
Morse was expected to handle LF duties until Bryce Harper was ready, and then they'd look to move him to first base. That would have likely meant that the Nationals would trade Adam LaRoche or at the very least not pick up his option for next year. Morse who is signed for $6.75 million next year looked like the logical fit for 1B for the future. Now between Morse's injury, LaRoche's quality start to the year, and the depth the Nationals have those plans have changed.
Now some might point to using Morse in LF when Jayson Werth comes back and keeping Bryce Harper in CF, but that doesn't seem like a likely option. The Nationals need to get a quality centerfielder (preferably one who can bat lead-off), and are all but assured to do so either via trade this summer or free agency next season. As good as Harper has been he'd be better served in a corner spot, and it would be a great way to add a table setter for the offense.
That really leaves first base as the only real option for Morse. While some might handicap it as a tough decision between keeping Morse or bringing back Adam LaRoche for $9 million next season, but I don't see it as that tough of a decision. Adam LaRoche might not have Morse's offensive power potential, but he's a far more consistent hitter, who even when he's not producing with the bat at least knows how to take a walk. Morse currently is walking just 3.5% of the time, which is lower than two of the Nationals starting pitchers. LaRoche being a lefty also offers a natural platoon with rookies Tyler Moore and Chris Marrero, something that Morse can't offer. In addition to the offensive reasons, LaRoche offers a major defensive advantage to Morse. Not only does he have better range and hands in the field, but he's far better at catching balls at first base, particularly throws from across the diamond that he needs to get on a short hop.
Now the final reason why the Nationals should choose LaRoche over Morse also answers the question of what to do with the slugger. If the Nationals were to decide to stick with Morse, they would be letting Adam LaRoche walk for nothing next offseason. But if they were to keep LaRoche, they would be able to trade Morse for assets. What he brings back will be determined in large part to how Morse finishes the season, but they should expect a solid return. Morse could appeal as a cheap power source for a number of teams, and will obviously appeal to American League clubs who can stick him at DH. Now the safest thing would be to wait till next year to trade Morse during the offseason, as hopefully he could rebuild his stock more and he has a starting role at least until Jayson Werth returns from injury. Despite that, it could still be worth exploring what exactly Morse's trade value is now. If the Nationals trade for a center fielder, they could get by with Tyler Moore and Steven Lombardozzi handling the LF duties until Werth came back. I could see teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Baltimore Orioles (as well as a couple others) intrigued about acquiring Morse for two playoff runs. While it is probably more prudent to wait, it should at least be under consideration, especially if through the deal the Nationals could get a piece to help them down the stretch this year.
What do you think? Will the Nationals trade Michael Morse and should they explore it this year?.