August 19, 2022

Washington Nationals trade Michael Morse in three-team deal


Michael Morse curtain call after his home run - Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Michael Morse curtain call after his home run – Last Game of Regular Season-Philadelphia Phillies v. Washington Nationals, October 3, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

It should come as no surprise that the Washington Nationals today traded OF/1B Michael Morse. The manner in which they did so — and return the received — is what makes the story that much more interesting.

Morse was send back to his original club, the Seattle Mariners, where he’ll be part of a logjam for playing time between left field, first base and designated hitter along with about 14 other players. The Mariners in turn sent catcher John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics and the A’s sent former Nats draft pick — and Baseball America’s No. 3 rated prospect for the A’s system — A.J. Cole, rigth-handed pitcher Blake Treinen and a player to be named later (most likely from this past season’s draft class) to the Nationals.

Morse, always a fan favorite, hit .291/.321/.470 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 430 plate appearances last season, as injuries limited him to 102 games. Now 31, he’s only had one season in the big leagues were he’s played more than 102 games. Morse’s power has never been in question, but his injury history and lack of defensive proficiency led the Nats to pursue a true center fielder this off-season. Once the Nats landed Denard Span — moving Bryce Harper to left field — the writing was on the wall for Morse to be moved.

Cole, 21, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 Amateur Draft by the Nats and quickly became one of their top prospects. He was ranked very high coming into the draft but was seen as next-to-impossible to sign as he had a strong commitment to the University of Miami. The Nats signed him right before the deadline for a reported record signing bonus for a fourth round player.

The 6’4″, 180 hard-throwing righty dominated batters in the South Atlantic League for Hagerstown in 2011, with 108 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 89 innings pitched. The Nats traded Cole, along with Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock to the A’s last off-season for All-Star starter Gio Gonzalez.

Cole started 2012 in High-A Stockton for the A’s and was pushed around. In his eight starts, he pitched to an 0-7 record and a 7.82 ERA, giving up a whopping 14.2 hits per nine innings. His strikeout rate was down just s tad, but his impeccable control never deserted him. He was demoted in mid-May to Low-A Burlington, where he dominated, going 6-3 with a 2.07 ERA with 102 Ks against a mere 19 walks.

The scouting report still stands on Cole. He has a big, heavy fastball at 94-95 MPH, a plus breaking pitch and a good feel for his changeup. He was considered to be one of the top five high school arms in his draft class and nothing he’s done as a pro, even his struggles in High-A last season, has changed scouts minds on him.

Treinen, 24, is another big bodied righty at 6’4″, 215. He spent last season at Stockton, where he went 7-7 in 24 appearances (15 starts) with 92 strikeouts and 23 walks in 103 innings. Treinen has been more hittable at each level of the minors as his career has progressed, as evidenced by the 10.1 hits per nine innings he gave up in 2012. Still, a player with a 4.00 K/BB ratio that throws 97 MPH is one that deserves more than just one look.

The player to be named later probably will come from Oakland’s 2012 draft class.

In trading Morse, GM Mike Rizzo took the opportunity to help restock the Nats farm system that has been depleted by the Gonzalez and Span trades. Getting a top-notch prospect like Cole in the deal, with another big arm to watch and a potential third player, seems like a coup. Morse is a defensive liability at this stage in his career, and combined with the fact that he has trouble avoiding injury, this return seems like the maximum that could have been expected for him. Sure, an MLB left-handed reliever would have been nice in the package, but Rizzo did a good job maximizing his assets in this deal, despite the nature of Morse’s relationship with the fans of D.C.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP


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