The Washington Nationals finally locked down first baseman Adam LaRoche which means that outfielder Michael Morse is on the trading block. The Yankees, looking for a right handed outfielder, are interested, according to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.
Morse broke onto the scene in a big way in 2010 as a 28-year-old and has mashed ever since hitting .296/.345/.516 since then. Even last year when he dealt with a list of injuries that limited him to just 102 games, Morse still managed to hit .291/.321/.470.
Morse wouldn’t necessarily be an alternative option to Scott Hairston as, unlike Hairston, he would play everyday. He could play in the outfield, spelling any one of the three left handed hitters, while playing DH or even occasionally first base against righties. So this doesn’t exactly end their pursuit of Hairston or mean that Matt Diaz or Russ Canzler wouldn’t have a spot on the team.
In fact, Morse isn’t a very good outfielder so he would be better off getting as much time at DH as possible. He’s consistently posted negative UZR’s and was at a career worst negative-9.4 UZR last season. His problem isn’t so much his arm, which is slightly below average, but his horrible range in the outfield. The Yankees might decide they are comfortable with that with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki out there with him, but if Curtis Granderson is out there with him there could be quite a few balls falling in that should otherwise be caught.
The other problem is going to be cost. While the Nationals do seem motivated to trade him there will be no shortage of teams interested with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reporting that as many as five or six teams have contact the Nationals about him already.
The rumor is that the Nationals are looking for pitching depth and bullpen help though and are specifically targeting a lefty reliever after losing Sean Burnett to free agency. With Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, and Cesar Cabral in the mix for the Yankees next year this is actually an area of depth. Still, one lefty reliever is not going to get a deal done so the Yankees will have to throw in other players, perhaps even David Phelps or Joba Chamberlain (who will be a free agent after 2013) would need to be included.
This is perhaps a chance for the Yankees to get creative though. We have been waiting for them to find a starting catcher all offseason so perhaps they could pry Kurt Suzuki away from them. Again though, the Nationals expect to compete this year and they aren’t just going to give major leagers away and other teams will be calling.
Morse is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and will earn $7 million next year. He is a free agent after that so he doesn’t hurt the Yankees chances of slashing payroll to $189 million in 2014. It isn’t a slam dunk that they would want to re-sign him at the end of the season either so think of him as a rental for now.
So far this offseason, the Yankees haven’t exactly upgraded their lineup. They’ve made a couple of moves this offseason, but aside from Kevin Youkilis it has been mainly to retain players they already had. Nick Swisher and Russell Martin have not been replaced yet. Brian Cashman, who always preaches patience, may have been waiting for an opportunity like this though.