I don’t blame the Nats for trading somebody, and with the way contracts and defense worked out, Mike Morse made the most sense. I would have done the same thing if I was Rizzo, but he will definitely be missed. He is an exciting player to watch, and he has one of the best stories I can remember from any National.
In a little bit of a cheapy here, I just want to reprint what I wrote last week when LaRoche was signed and it was clear Morse might be on the way out. Here’s his story, from a scouting and performance perspective:
Because of this contract, it seemingly relegates Morse to the bench. It likely means that management will trade him, which makes sense in terms of building the best team. It is unfortunate to feel the need to trade such a good player who is a fan favorite, and count me as one of those fans who enjoys watching his enthusiastic play. His emergence as a true power hitter was more surprising than you may recall.
In one of the more lopsided trades this team has made (in hindsight), they gave up Ryan Langerhans to get Morse. Langerhans looked like the better player at the time – although he hadn’t had much success hitting, he was at least a lefty, had shown some power in the minors, and was a good fielder. Morse, on the other hand, hadn’t yet shown power in the majors, or the minors for that matter. He was also a converted infielder who couldn’t seem to field anywhere that well. Here is what Baseball Prospectus said about him before the 2008 season:
As utilitymen go, Michael Morse is a tweener-he doesn’t have the defensive skill to back up the middle infield positions or the power to hold down even the short-side of a platoon at one of the corners. What that leaves, particularly on a team that already has Willie Bloomquist, is not much
Yup, that’s Mike Morse, light-hitting utility man. Still with the Mariners in 2009, here is what they said about him:
He should be healthy by the start of this season, and could wind up filling the super-utility role vacated by Willie Bloomquist, though like his predecessor, he’s not much of an asset at any of the positions for which he owns a glove.
So apparently he’s Mike Morse, light-hitting poor-fielding utility man. Then, after getting traded to the Nats before the 2010 season, this is what was said:
…at first glance Morse’s four-corner skill set seems to mesh well with [Willie] Harris’s to complete some sort of Utility Player 3-D Cube Puzzle, but Morse’s missing piece is power. He has never consistently produced the sort of thunder you’d hope for from an infield corner, even in a reserve role, which presages a short shelf-life, even with the talent-starved Nationals.
Can still play the corner IF and OF spots, but still has no power. Then he ends up hitting 15 HRs in 293 PAs, batting .289/.352/.519, and presaging his truly breakout 2011. But not totally… Here is what BP said about him before the 2011 season:
You might wonder where Morse’s 2010 season came from, but credit Rizzo and company for snagging something of value in a minor exchange. A decade ago, Morse was a prospect, but he lost major chunks of his career to a PED suspension plus injuries to a knee and shoulder… Morse is an impatient hacker sure to undershoot expectations that he’ll keep slugging .500 or live up to “Jayson Werth 2.0″ comparisons… Between left-field platoon chores with Rick Ankiel and an open casting call at first base as we go to press, he should make an effective enough placeholder however he’s employed; by the time the Nats develop alternatives, he’ll have earned a stretch deal to man a contender’s bench.
Not exactly predicting his .303/.360/.550 with 31 HRs in 575 PAs in 2011, was it? But not many people were, despite a strong 2010. Nevertheless, he was unable to really capitalize on this production thanks to another injury in 2012. It limited him to a .291/.321/.470 line, although once he recovered he looked much stronger. After July 14th, he hit .300/.336/.506, very comparable to 2011. In fact, it might be just about what one would expect if he regressed a little bit from a career year