Former Nationals slugger Michael Morse is a fine hitter when healthy. But that has been a concern throughout his career. He also leaves something to be desired in the field and on the bases. He is an every-day player for a lot of teams in the major leagues, but he was not going to be an everyday player anymore in Washington.
The December trade for center fielder Denard Span made that clear. Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth became the corner outfielders. When first baseman Adam LaRoche re-signed with the club last week, that left Morse's last, best hope dashed. The conventional wisdom was that he would be traded, and that happened Wednesday.
But should the Nats have gone that route? Over the last three years, only 17 big leaguers with at least 1,000 at-bats have a better slugging percentage than Morse (.516). Yes, he was hurt last season. But in a bench role, Washington could have found him 400 at-bats. His replacement, Tyler Moore, is younger (25) and had 10 home runs last season in 156 at-bats. The organization likes him. But Moore is not Gold Glove caliber, either, and his track record is miniscule. Morse is the better option for 2013.
The $6.75 million salary is extreme for a bench player. But with a payroll north of $110 million, would the Lerner family even notice? In the short term, Morse had value as a strong bat off the bench and as an insurance policy if any of Washington's outfielders or LaRoche were injured. Pitching prospects -- even one as highly regarded as A.J. Cole, the key piece of the three-way trade -- are essentially lottery tickets for the future. But for the Nats, the future is now.
- Brian McNally