Hot Stove talk: Michael Morse

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
8:00
AM CT
Editor's Note: This occasional series on various players on the free-agent or trade market continues as we are still in the Hot Stove portion of the baseball year.

Today's player: Michael Morse

[+] EnlargeMichael Morse
Joy R. Absalon/US PresswireMichael Morse could provide pop from the right side of the plate at a corner outfield spot or first base.
With the signing of Adam LaRoche to a contract that includes $24 million in guaranteed money (a two-year deal worth $22 million with a $2 million buyout on a 2015 mutual option), the Washington Nationals could look to deal Morse and, according to ESPN.com's Jim Bowden, 10-11 teams are interested in him.

Does he makes sense for Texas? Morse, who turns 31 in March, is slated to make $6.75 million in 2013 in the final year of his deal before becoming a free agent.

Morse, a right-handed hitter, hit .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 102 games for the Nationals last year. He battled injuries, including a hand contusion and strained right lat muscle. Morse plays the corner outfield positions and also started 82 games at first base in 2011. Right now, the only right-handed outfielders on the Rangers' roster are Nelson Cruz and Craig Gentry.

Mitch Moreland, a left-handed hitter, is the club's primary first baseman. Lance Berkman, a switch-hitter, could also play first, though his primary role is DH and he isn't likely to get a ton of time at first. Morse could conceivably be an option at first against left-handed pitchers and could play in the outfield as well. But to do that, it could mean fewer at-bats against left-handed pitchers for David Murphy, for instance. It's worth pointing out that Morse hit .290 in 107 at-bats against lefties last year. He hit .297 against them in 2011. Yet in both years, he hit better versus righties. Murphy, by the way, hit .347 against left-handed pitchers in 75 at-bats last year.

In some ways, Morse could be the non-catching version of Mike Napoli. Like Napoli, he's right-handed and has power. Morse has had the more consistent batting average in the past few years. In 2011, Morse hit .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs. He had a .910 OPS that season.

According to Bowden, the Nationals want left-handed relief and prospects. The question is what kind of price it would take to get him. Room would have to be created for Morse, but this club hasn't worried about that in the past. I'll remind you that when Napoli was acquired prior to the 2011 season, it was unclear how he'd be used. He was listed as a third catcher and platoon first baseman. Things changed in a hurry.

Morse probably isn't worth a top-flight prospect such as a Martin Perez or Cody Buckel because of how he might be used in Texas. But perhaps the Rangers' deep farm system could net something to interest the Nationals without overpaying.

I'm intrigued by the guy and think his bat could help this club, but only for a group of prospects that doesn't include the top tier. That may not be possible.

What do you think of Morse? How many prospects -- or how high a level prospect -- are you willing to deal for him?

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182