The Washington Nationals have traded outfielder Michael Morse to the Seattle Mariners in a three-team trade that sends Mariners catcher John Jaso to Oakland, and A's prospect AJ Cole to the Nationals. Oakland will also be sending a player to be named later to the Nationals. It's a reunion of sorts for both Morse and Cole, who were originally members of their new organizations before being dealt in prior deals.
Morse had outlived his usefulness in Washington after the team traded for center fielder Denard Span and re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche this winter. With Morse hitting the free agent market next winter, there was no place for him on the team with the two positions he can concievably play (left field and first base) both occupied. Morse missed 60 games for the Nationals last season while dealing with a lat strain that kept him out for the first two months of the season, and when he returned, he posted a .791 OPS with 18 homers. However, poor baserunning and defense led to him providing negative value to the team. In 2011, while serving as the team's first baseman after LaRoche was injured, Morse had a .910 OPS and 31 homers for Washington in a career year.
He'll join a Mariners team that is in desperate need of offense, but keeps acquiring the same types of players to fill roles on the team. Morse joins Kendrys Morales as a first base/DH candidate, with Jesus Montero likely getting most of the reps behind the plate after Jaso was dealt. Seattle also signed veteran Raul Ibanez this winter to eat some some at bats at DH, but with Morse's acquisition, there's the very likely possibility that eiher Ibanez or Morse will be playing substantial innings in left field, which should at least give us some opportunities to laugh at their poor defense.
Jaso is such an A's type player that Oakland's involvement in the trade solely to get Jaso makes sense. Last year in 108 games, Jaso had an .850 OPS, bolstered by a 15.5% walk rate and ten homers over 108 games with Seattle. For his career, spent entirely in Tampa Bay prior to the 2012 season, Jaso has walked more than he's struck out. It'll be interesting to see where he fits in with the A's though, due to the presence of Derek Norris and George Kottaras on the A's roster already.
Cole, one of two prospects heading to Washington in the trade, is no stranger to the Nationals organization. He was traded (along with Norris, among others) last winter to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez trade. The 21-year old split the year between A-ball and high-A in the Oakland organization in 2012, combining to strike out 133 and walk 29 in 133 2/3 innings. However, Cole had a 7.32 ERA to start the year in the California League, which earned him a demotion to the Midwest League where he regained his form. Back in the Nationals system, he won't have to deal with the trials and tribulations of the Cal League, and might be able to spend very little time in high-A this year before making the jump up to AA. Cole was a fourth round pick by the Nationals in the 2010 draft.
All in all, the Nationals got solid value (and someone they're familiar with) for Morse, the A's fine tuned their major league roster for a prospect that wouldn't have contributed for another couple of years, and the Mariners added some offense where they already had offense, and doubled down on the possibility of Jesus Montero catching every day, at least for the first half of the year. Good luck with that.
UPDATE: Washington also gets pitcher Blake Treinen from Oakland, in addition to the PTBNL. The 24-year old had a 4.37 ERA in 103 innings in high-A for the A's, striking out 92 while walking 23. The A's also DFAed Kottaras just two days after agreeing to a contract with him to avoid arbitration, clearing up their catching logjam in the process.
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