Marlins working on deal to send Latos, Morse to Dodgers

 

Amid intense trade speculation, right-hander Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse stood with teammates for the National Anthem and sat in the dugout during the Miami Marlins’ 7-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

Earlier in the day, FOX Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal reported the Marlins were working on a deal that would send Latos, Morse and a competitive-balance pick to the Los Angeles Dodgers for three minor-league pitchers.

According to Rosenthal, the Dodgers would take on the rest of Latos’ ($9.4 million) and Morse’s ($7 million) contracts in 2015 as well as Morse’s $8 million in 2016. The Marlins would also send the Dodgers their competitive-balance pick (No. 34 overall) in the 2016 MLB Draft.

The clubhouse was not open to media. Neither player took the field with the ballclub for batting practice. Following the game, both lockers were cleared out. Latos and Morse walked out together without speaking to media.

And yet, nothing has been confirmed or made official yet.

In fact, as the night progressed, the deal seemed to grow even bigger in scope. According to reports, the Atlanta Braves joined in the trade talks and the deal would involve far more players and the pick. But even then, confusion remained.

For instance, MLB.com reported the trade as the Dodgers getting Latos and Morse from the Marlins, and starting pitcher Alex Wood, closer Jim Johnson, reliever Luis Avilan and infielder Jose Peraza from the Braves. Minor-league pitchers Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman would go from Los Angeles to Miami, and Atlanta would get the pick from the Marlins and recent Cuban signee Hector Olivera and injured reliever Paco Rodriguez from the Dodgers, all according to Major League sources.

ESPN.com added that the Braves would also get minor-league pitcher Zack Bird from the Dodgers.

But later Wednesday, Rosenthal tweeted that Morse would actually be going to the Braves.

"Nothing from (president of baseball operations) Michael (Hill)," manager Dan Jennings said postgame. "I know that they’re upstairs. They’ve pretty much been upstairs the whole game. There’s no news to report. There’s nothing official.

"You potentially know that you can be managing short. We try to keep our guys informed and any of the guys their names are being bantered around out of respect to them. And so before game time we made sure that Morse and Latos were suited up. You never know if you’re going to get a call down to the dugout that says, ‘Hey, these guys, get them out.’ We’ve been on both sides of that through my time here with the Marlins. You really just have to stay mentally ready to go. You never know when that time is coming. Nothing official as of yet. Speaking to Mike probably five minutes ago."

Both Marlins players, locals from Broward County, were key additions over the offseason for what Miami considered a strong push for the postseason.

Latos, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a trade for righty Anthony DeSclafani and catching prospect Chad Wallach, is a free agent at the end of the season.

Like in 2014, injuries have played a factor in Latos’ effectiveness this season. The 27-year-old righty was 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 16 starts for the Marlins. Left knee surgery over the offseason pushed back his spring training routine and he landed on the disabled list on May 23 with inflammation. Bruised toes also forced him to miss a start. However, over his past four outings, Latos has posted a 2.08 ERA.

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"It’s almost like a season of two halves for him," Jennings said during batting practice. "The pre-injury and then when he came back. His last seven starts he’s been outstanding. He has pitched some great games for us, going six innings or more in all of them. Somebody today flashed up his numbers before and after the DL time and his last seven I think he had an average against of .190 something. … I think he showed that once he was healthy that he was the difference maker we knew he could be."

Miami hoped Morse, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal as a free agent over the winter, would be a veteran presence with postseason experience — he drove in two of the three runs in Game 7 of the World Series for the San Francisco Giants.

But the 33-year-old first baseman/outfielder never found his stroke at the plate and spent more than a month on the DL with a right ring finger sprain. Morse batted .214 with four doubles, four homers and 12 RBI in 52 games. When he continued to struggle in May, rookie Justin Bour took over first-base duties. Upon his return, Morse played six games in the outfield and came off the bench.

"Early he had some injuries and certainly that set him back," Jennings said. "The thing with the finger and anytime you’re dealing with a hitter — hands or wrist — that’s tough. That’s tough to crawl over. It took some time for that to heal."

Options to replace Latos in the rotation include a trio of pitchers in Triple-A New Orleans that made big-league debuts earlier this season.

Since returning to the minors, 25-year-old southpaw Adam Conley has gone 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts. Over 25 innings, he has struck out 26 batters and walked seven. He has pitched at least six frames in each with two earned runs or fewer in all but one.

Two of Miami’s top prospects — lefty Justin Nicolino and righty Jose Urena — have struggled back in the minors. Nicolino has posted a 2-3 record and 5.06 ERA in five starts. Over 26 2/3 innings, he has struck out 13 and walked six. In his last outing, however, he permitted just one run over eight frames. Including a complete game shutout on July 4, Urena is 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA over five starts. In 30 1/3 frames, he has surrendered 15 runs on 34 hits with seven walks and 19 strikeouts.

"The good part is they’ve all been here," Jennings said. "They’ve been tested, they’ve got their feet wet. Now it’s going to be an opportunity for one of them or all of them to come up here at different times and have a chance to make their case for the rest of this year or next year. It’s good because we’ve seen them, we’ve seen them under fire. And they’ve come in — for the most part the chances they’ve been given — they’ve performed very well."

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.