He’s no Justin Upton but how about Michael Morse for the Mets?

The offensive pipe dream for the Mets this offseason has been to swing a trade for Justin Upton. Now that we’ve seen what the parameters for an Upton deal might be from the vetoed deal with the Mariners, it’s way past time to move on to a more realistic target. Recently, another righty hitting power outfield bat was put on the market when the Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche, which makes Michael Morse expendable.

In one of the most underrated trades of the past five years, Washington traded Ryan Langerhans to Seattle for Morse. For two players who are both outfielders, they are essentially polar opposites of one another. Langerhans bats and fields left, is an outstanding defensive outfielder and has all of the punch of non-alcoholic beer.

Meanwhile, Morse bats and throws right, is a poor defensive outfielder and he drew MVP votes in 2011 thanks to his .910 OPS with 31 HR. So, why on earth would the Nationals consider moving a 30-HR bat? Washington is set in the outfield after the acquisition of Denard Span and by bringing back LaRoche, first base is closed now, too, leaving no room for Morse.

The Nationals are set with position players and their rotation is full, too. So that means they are most likely looking for a reliever or a prospect in return for Morse. Josh Edgin would make a lot of sense, being a lefty reliever who could be a late-game option, but it’s questionable if the Mets would be willing to deal one of the few people to have a bullpen spot locked down.

But before delving any further into what it might take to get him, let’s step back and look at the pros and cons of acquiring Morse. Actually, the pros can be summed up in one sentence – he’s a power hitting righty bat for the outfield. So, what are the cons?

Morse is a poor fielder. He’s so bad that he’s likely to give Lucas Duda a run for his money to be the worst defensive outfielder in the majors. By all rights he should be either a first baseman or a DH.

While he had a great year in 2011, he was not nearly as good in 2012. Morse posted a .791 OPS in 430 PA last year. However, he suffered from hand and wrist injuries, which are well known for sapping a player’s power. All of the recent news surrounding Morse has been about his availability and there have been no reports that I have found specifically dealing with how his injuries have progressed.

Finally, Morse turns 31 in March and is in the final year of his contract, which pays him around $7 million this season

Actually, it’s probably worthwhile to list one other thing, since this seems to carry so much weight for a lot of people. If the Mets were to acquire Morse – read the next part in your “end of the world voice” – THEY WOULD HAVE TO TRADE WITHIN THE DIVISION!!!!! Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Oh, won’t someone think of the children!

The “trade in the division” argument gets thrown out so often that it clouds judgment more than it helps make good decisions. The idea is to improve your team, to put out the best possible squad you can given your constraints. The Mets have enough payroll constraints as it is, it makes virtually no sense to add additional constraints like trading within your division. Look, the Nationals have to trade within their division in a deal with New York, too.

If they deal Morse to the Mets, they are helping a team they went 14-4 against last year. Why would they want to help a team that essentially allowed them to post 98 wins? Because the prime directive is to optimize the talent on your own squad and accept that other clubs are doing the same thing. To do otherwise is to cut off your nose to spite your face.

If you have two great trade offers and you are deciding which one is better – then it’s fine to invoke the “trade in the division” clause. It should be a tiebreaker, nothing more.

It would appear that the Nationals would be in the catbird seat with Morse, having a middle-of-the-order hitter available to deal. However, their leverage might not be as great as you would imagine on first blush. Morse’s 2012 season certainly calls into question whether 2011 was a fluke. Morse’s defensive issues mean most clubs wouldn’t see him as an outfielder. Finally, Morse himself has indicated that he does not want to be a DH.

On the plus side for Washington is that it can simply keep Morse and even if everyone stays healthy he should have no problem getting 300 PA. The Nationals have already displayed a willingness to keep a player stashed away, as they did just last year with John Lannan, as they had him perform most of the year in Triple-A, only to utilize later in the season in key moments.

If a team gets Morse, it will have to give up something of value. The Nationals are not going to trade him just to be rid of him. There are a lot of teams kicking the tires on him and his price will not be cheap.

The Mets should be thinking of which prospects they would consider dealing. The team has developed a bunch of B-/C+ type of players and it should know which ones they think will take a step forward and which ones are less likely to become impact players. The Mets are going to have to give up someone who has promise in a deal for Morse.

The first name that jumps to mind is Luis Mateo. He’s got a fastball that approaches triple digits but it’s an open question if he’ll ever have anything else. If you think Mateo will develop into a star, substitute someone else who carries legitimate upside. Since the Nationals are looking for a lefty reliever, how about Robert Carson and Cory Mazzoni?

Because so many teams are interested in Morse, it’s unlikely that he’ll wind up on the Mets. Nevertheless, Sandy Alderson should be in contact with Mike Rizzo, his counterpart in Washington, to see what it would take to get Morse in Queens.

15 comments for “He’s no Justin Upton but how about Michael Morse for the Mets?

  1. chavez06
    January 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    NO, thank you. We have enough of these players who can hit, but can’t play any D. I mean, by midseason can Flores be in a position to provide similar offense as Morse? Plus you have Duda. Don’t want to waste any of our trade chips on a player that really is not going to be a significant upgrade over what we have now or will have in a year. I’d rather rather the Mets sign Hairston. Like to see an outfield of Hairston, Nuiwenhuis, and Duda in the outfield to begin the season in NY and Lagares, Den Dekker, and Valdespin in Vegas. I’m hoping that Valdespin’s winter season was not just a fluke and he’ll continue to show more plate discipline. If he does, you could feasibly trade Duda at the deadline to continue to stock up the farm and bring up Valdespin.

  2. Name
    January 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I don’t see a good fit.
    The Nats want a major league bullpen piece and the Mets can’t really to afford to trade any away.
    If you want a poor defender and a righty without some pop, perhaps we should consider Delmon Young. He’d be much cheaper and wouldn’t cost any players. Of course, he’s not the hitter that Morse is and comes with baggage so i really wouldn’t touch him unless he’s so cheap that it would be foolish not to take a flier(i’m talking like what Hairston signed last year).

    • January 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      I understand the reluctance to add a player like Morse. But I’d rather pay the additional cost to get Morse than whatever it would take to get Young. I don’t ever expect Young to match his 2010 season again, and Morse’s 2011 was significantly better than Young’s 2010. Plus, there’s a chance that Morse’s down year last year was injury-related.

      Young has had 1,111 PA of a .702 OPS since his fluke 2010. That’s not someone to pick up for a team needing offense.

      • Name
        January 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        I understand it would be great to pick up another OF option, especially someone with reliable pop like Morse. But there are a lot of teams interested and I think some team will give them a major league ready bullpen arm, so any combination of our B/C prospects won’t get the job done. If it does get it done, by all means Sandy should do it, but i highly doubt it. But if they want Josh Edgin? No thanks.

      • jerrygrote
        January 14, 2013 at 6:52 am

        While its fun to talk about people like Delmon Young (I’m more inclined to any story that starts with the Mets acquiring < 30 players), the Mets have yet to be linked to him. His recent salary/performance really doesn't match up with our GM.

        If Morse delivers 2-2.5 WAR, he does. There is some risk there, so you have to compensate by giving up less for him. For an AL team that can hide his glove, he is ideal and they will probably give up something much more valuable than we can.

        Now, if you can get Young to commit to being a platoon guy and take a 2 yr/$4M salary … then I suppose that's an improvement over paying Hairston about the same and also committing to giving him a fulltime opportunity.

        But I have this sinking feeling that by Tuesday night we are going to hear that the Mets "committed" to the great pair of Brian Wilson and Scott Hairston … and we no longer have a need for either pitchers or outfielders for 2013.

        • Name
          January 14, 2013 at 11:34 am

          I think Scott Haiston > Delmon Young.

          I wouldn’t give Delmon Young a 2 yr/4 mil deal. I was thinking similar to what Hairston signed the last 2 years, which is 1 year/1.1 mil.

  3. jerrygrote
    January 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Not sure if I’m comfortable with Morse and Duda in the OF at the same time. And let’s be honest with ourselves.

    He’s a 31 year old that has produced 5.1 WAR in his career, and 3.1 of that came in 2011. I tend to think if you have to keep playing him in the field, his established ability to produce is closer to 2012 than you admitting here.

    How much in talent I’d surrender to get Morse AND pay him his salary probably varies a little bit from what you’d be willing to do.

    • January 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      No doubt that the Morse-Duda combination would be UGLY. But perhaps Morse would send Duda to the bench.

      True, the great majority of Morse’s career value came in 2011. But we also have to recognize that it was also the first season he got as many as 300 PA in the majors. It’s tough to put up a bunch of WAR when ages 24-27 you amass just 134 PA.

      From 2010-2012, Morse has a .296/.345/.516 line. And while last year was his worst OBP/SLG marks of those three years, he was also dealing with wrist/hand injuries. That’s a pretty significant injury for a hitter and you just can’t dismiss that.

  4. January 13, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    But your only going to have Morse for one year so you need to add that to the equation. A poor defender can always be compensated with a speedy and defensive center fielder who will take as much as he can thus limiting the potential damage of a defensive liability. Not worth the risk because of where he is injured. As you stated we don’t know in detail how has he progressed and if it is an injury that has fully healed and will not affect him this coming season. But it is his walk year and I’m pretty sure he wants to put up as good a number as he possibly can for his next contract.

  5. January 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Sandy must of thought he struck gold when he was able to sign Frank Francisco to 12 million for 2 years so Brian Wilson at ? can’t do any worse than Francisco.

  6. BrooklynGirl
    January 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Why not take Morse? He’ s already broken which means no high expectations. Besides that the guy is a beast who can hit some homers, I would take the chance for a year.

  7. January 16, 2013 at 12:38 am

    The point is not that you’ll take Morse for probably one year. But rather what are you going to give up knowing he’ll look to go elsewhere after just one season. The Nat’s addressed their only weakness when they signed Rafael Soriano as closer to a 2 year contract.

    • January 16, 2013 at 7:34 am

      I disagree with this.

      A player on a one-year contract is ideal for the Mets. If Morse is not any better than he was in 2012, you thank him and let him go. If he returns more towards his 2012 level of production than you have a leg up in re-signing him. While the possibility exists that he’ll leave, it’s by no means a given.

      Morse was a fan favorite in DC and it’s likely he’d be the same in New York. A player with a big personality is usually drawn towards playing in the spotlight. Dickey didn’t want to leave NY. I can see Morse being the same type of guy. I don’t think he’s Ed Whitson.

      If Morse rebounds and the Mets offer the money, he’ll stay. And if they’re too broke to offer the money, they submit the qualifying offer and get the draft pick that’s too precious for them to surrender to get someone like Bourn.

  8. January 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

    They broke the mold after Ed Whitson. What fond memories he must bring back for Yankee fans. I do agree that a one year contract for a player who is probably only going to get one more big paycheck will probably bust his butt to get the kind of numbers he needs for a lucrative multi-year payoff. That’s the same reason I was looking at Michael Bourn.

  9. Name
    January 16, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    So it looks like the Nats reacquired AJ cole for Morse.
    I don’t know much about the minor leagues, but the equivilent of Cole would be Fulmer?(someone correct me if there is a better comparison in our system)

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