January 9, 2013
Wednesday, January 9
The Adam LaRoche derby came to an end on Tuesday, when the first baseman chose to stay in the nation’s capital on a two-year contract with a mutual option for the 2015 season. Today’s Roundup is a look at the implications of the deal; Ben Lindbergh analyzed the agreement itself here.
After re-signing LaRoche, Nationals mulling options with Michael Morse
Just minutes after news of the signing broke, national baseball writers swarmed Twitter in a race to break down the Morse sweepstakes. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard from a source that five or six teams were actively speaking with Rizzo about the 30-year-old Morse, who is set to earn $7 million in 2013, the second year of a two-year, $10.5 million extension that he signed last Jan. 20 in a decision to forgo his remaining arbitration eligibility. ESPN’s Jim Bowden doubled Rosenthal’s total, claiming that Rizzo is actually fielding calls from 10 or 11 of his counterparts. And thus, by the mid-afternoon, our own Jason Collette quipped that armchair GMs from all 29 other teams were concocting hypothetical offers for Morse, in a frenzy trumped only by the Giancarlo Stanton madness that swarmed the Internet during the past few weeks:
The Phillies are among the teams still seeking offensive upgrades, and Morse—a (kind of) versatile right-handed hitter—would complement manager Charlie Manuel’s incumbent pieces well. But Rosenthal is skeptical that Rizzo would trade Morse to a division rival, and he named the Mariners, Orioles, Rays, and Yankees as viable alternatives. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman added the Indians, Mets, and Rangers as possible fits, and it’s possible that Sandy Alderson will have more luck wooing Rizzo than Ruben Amaro because the Mets are not viewed as a threat to the Nationals in 2013. Assuming that all of those teams are on Bowden’s list of 10 or 11, two or three other suitors remain unidentified.
Rizzo’s intentions are also somewhat muddled. He told reporters in the wake of the LaRoche agreement, “Nobody said that we have to trade Michael Morse,” and added that while as many as a dozen teams have shown interest, there is no financial pressure to unload him. On the other hand, Washington Post beat writer Adam Kilgore reminded followers that manager Davey Johnson said earlier this winter that keeping both LaRoche and Morse would leave him with too many mouths to feed. If the skipper and his boss are on the same page, then Rizzo’s statement on Tuesday was most likely just an attempt to improve his leverage in trade talks.
And that leverage could be critical, because Morse’s preferences may serve to diminish it. Rosenthal followed up on his initial report by speaking with sources that indicated that Morse “strongly opposes being a [designated hitter],” a sentiment that, if rigid, would make him unattractive to some American League suitors. A lumbering 6-foot-5, 230 pounder, Morse is a below-average outfielder (-2.4 FRAA in 2012, -8.7 career FRAA) with poor range and a mediocre arm, and his defensive shortcomings eat significantly into his offensive contributions. If he is unwilling to help teams to hide those shortcomings, then many will be reluctant to match Rizzo’s price tag.