What is Morse worth in trade?

What is Morse worth in trade?
December 7, 2012, 9:45 am
Share This Post

While we continue to wait for word on the results of Dan Haren's physical -- the right-hander was scheduled to be in Washington yesterday to be examined by Nationals doctors before his contract could be finalized -- let's look ahead to what could turn into one of the few remaining offseason questions this team will face.

What's the trade market for Michael Morse look like, and what might the Nationals get in return for the slugger?

Morse's eventual trade is predicated on Adam LaRoche's return, though that prospect looks more and more likely each day, with the Nationals hoping to get a deal done before Christmas.

Once LaRoche is under contract, Morse becomes expendable. Not because the Nationals don't like him and what he offers the club. But because there simply won't be a spot in the lineup for him, with LaRoche back at first base and Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth ingrained in the outfield.

What, though, can the Nationals reasonably expect to get for Morse? The offers may not be as robust as you'd think, for a couple of reasons:

1) Morse is only under contract for one more season before he becomes a free agent.

2) Other teams will know the Nationals are desperate to trade him.

The Nationals recognize this, and they're likely to keep their demands modest, seeking not someone who will make an immediate impact in the big leagues but someone who could help them out down the road.

The organization's biggest need at the moment is pitching depth, particularly starters who could fill out the rotation at Class AAA Syracuse and be called upon in the event of injury to one of the five big-league starters. That's what general manager Mike Rizzo will be asking for in any trade discussions involving Morse.

The Orioles -- one team potentially interested in Morse -- have several pitchers who would fit that description, starters who haven't mastered the big leagues but have some experience and could be summoned in case of injury (including fizzled-out prospects Brian Matusz and Zach Britton).

The Mariners -- who also have expressed interest in Morse -- have fewer "Class AAAA" pitchers who would meet the Nationals' preferred specifications, but there could still be a match there.

The Rays seem like less of a good fit, given their general aversion to trading away young players for older ones, especially one who isn't under team control more than one season.

However this all plays out, the Nationals are realistic about what they can get in return for Morse. They probably won't get a big leaguer who will make major contributions in 2013. But they might be able to get the kind of minor leaguer who ultimately is asked to play an important role at the major league level.