Morse strongly opposes being a DH
There is a problem for any American League team that intends to acquire Nationals left fielder Mike Morse and use him often as a designated hitter.
Morse strongly opposes being a DH, according to major-league sources.
The issue, sources say, will carry weight for some AL clubs. Morse is “not a very gifted defender” and would better fit certain teams as a DH, according to one rival executive who leans heavily on advanced metrics.
Trades sometimes turn on such details.
And Morse, 30, is likely to be traded now that the Nationals have reached agreement with free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche on a two-year, $24 million contract.
Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper will be the Nationals’ outfielders. Morse, who would have replaced LaRoche at first, is without a starting role.
Teams value Morse’s right-handed power; his OPS in the past four seasons is .857. But his lack of durability is a concern for some — he has appeared in more than 102 games in a season only once in his career.
Morse’s resistance to being a DH, meanwhile, not only could harm his trade value, but also limit him in free agency next offseason.
He cannot block a trade. His market, according to sources, shapes up roughly as follows:
• The Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles are among the clubs with varying levels of interest. Morse also could fit for the Boston Red Sox if the team fails to finalize its deal with free agent Mike Napoli.
• The Texas Rangers like Morse, but assume other teams will be more willing to meet the Nats’ price — high-ceiling prospects and possibly a left-handed reliever.
• The Cleveland Indians could not afford Morse, who will earn $7 million next season before becoming a free agent, unless they traded a player with a comparable salary.
• The Nationals are unlikely to trade Morse to the Atlanta Braves or Philadelphia Phillies, their two biggest threats in the NL East. The New York Mets, a team in desperate need of outfielders, likely would prefer a longer-term solution.
One executive pegs the Mariners as the favorites to land Morse, noting that the team’s earlier acquisitions of DH Kendrys Morales and outfielder Raul Ibanez indicate that the M’s are now emphasizing offense over defense.
The Mariners also are involved in talks for Arizona right fielder Justin Upton, but Morse might be a more realistic target. Upton has the M’s on his four-team no-trade list, and the team likely would use Morse in the field, given its other options.
Other teams likely would want Morse to be at least a part-time DH.
The Yankees’ three outfielders — Ichiro Suzuki, Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner — are all better than Morse defensively. The Rays are seeking offensive help, but greatly value defense. The Orioles like Morse with the idea of dividing his playing time between left field, first base and DH.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post that the team does not need to trade Morse for financial reasons. At the same time, it’s difficult to imagine the Nats carrying a $7 million player on the bench.
Let the Morse sweepstakes begin.
Some teams, though, might pause before entering.