Nationals Baseball: LaRoche Signs; Trade Morse?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

LaRoche Signs; Trade Morse?

LaRoche will presumably sign the deal the Nats wanted all along.  It's not what he wanted but interest in him was tepid for several reasons.
  • His 2010 was mediocre and his injury plagued 2011 was terrible
  • Repeat "Injury plagued 2011" 
  • He's 33, not a young chicken
  • He was tied to draft pick compensation
Really though the market SHOULD have been there, but this is how it can go some years. One of the right teams was at the wrong time (Red Sox), fans are still letting other teams get away with crying poverty, every team is overvaluing draft picks right now, and the perfect fit decided to roll with Mitch Moreland & Lance Berkman.*

* Fun fact - expand out Moreland to a full season, factor in fielding and Texas conditions, etc etc and the difference between Moreland and LaRoche is 1-2 wins or EXACTLY WHAT THE RANGERS NEEDED TO MISS THE WILD CARD GAME LAST YEAR. When/if the Rangers fail to make the playoffs or win the West by a game or two I will laugh and laugh and laugh

So what about Morse?  Presumably he'll be traded for a LH reliever or starting depth. Does he need to be?

The Nats can afford to keep him.  Five million isn't onerous, and a good back-up is always nice to have. But that's probably not enough. Morse can only play corner OF and 1B, you really don't want to rotate out any of those three (LaRoche, Werth, Bryce) for many games so you are looking at a pretty limited set of at bats for Morse. Even if there was a minor injury the Nats are ok with the much cheaper options of Bernadina (for ok fielding and speed and slap hits) or Moore (for lefty power) for a few games at least. As a bench player he'd be a nice guy to have in case you need a hit, but his power was falling last year (possibly injury related so it might bounce back) and he Ks alot so he's a very specific type of bench hitter. He doesn't field well or run well so that value is nill.

Simply in terms of production, would he be worth more to the Nats in 2013 than a 6th starter or a 7th inning LOOGY? Almost certainly. But that's not the question. The question is given their relative contracts, would he be worth more? The answer to that, assuming the guys that the Nats get back are cheap and are signed through more than next year, would be no.

Morse will likely be gone next year with no room for him at the DC Inn. The Nats can save some money and probably get a little more value over the course of the respective players "Nat time" by trading him now.  Rizzo tends to be an absolute value guy so I expect him to be dealt, screw the win in 2013 it may cost.


Wally said...

Well, finally the push me/pull me contract saga is over. Yeah!

I think that you are right that they'll likely trade Morse, but I don't think that they should. I think with 20 interleague games, plus rotating days off for ALR, Span and Werth, he can start two other games per week. Add a nightly PH appearance, and you can easily get to 400 PAs without a prolonged injury to any of ALR, Span, Werth or Harper. That should be worth real value. Plus, you then get to hedge against that kind of prolonged injury to one of the starters.

The reason that I'd pay him $7m to do that for us is (a) we are in a go-for-it mode, upping the value of a marginal win like your TEX analogy, (b) our payroll is modest this year, and it can easily fit him in, and (c) I expect the return for him tradewise to be poopy-level. If I am wrong about this last one, then ok, let's do it. But otherwise, let's keep him. It is not like Span, Werth and ALR are guaranteed to play 150 games this year.

Harper said...

I agree. You can see what's out there but unless it's a stud lefty relief arm or a legit usable 5th starter (who is signed for a couple more years cheaply) you keep. It's WIN NOW mode.

(I was for hardlining LaRoche when the argument was framed LaRoche or Morse. Now that LaRoche is here the argument is Morse or no Morse - so I'm for keep Morse)

blovy8 said...

My guess would be that they try for real value in a prospect or prospects, not a loogy. I think Rizzo could have signed Burnett or Howell fairly early on, but didn't. If, in a "go for it" year, he did not make the case that 2.85 million for a LH reliever was a priority, it makes sense that it would take more than Matusz from the Orioles. He can wait for someone to get needy.

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

Venters for Morse.

Who hangs up first?

Donald said...

I don't know to what extent this factors into their thinking, but what kind of teammate is Morse going to be next year coming off the bench? I think everyone on the team likes him, but it seems like he gets bored easily and when that happens, he's less serious and focused. If they keep him and he gets behind the idea of subbing to help push for the world series it could be fine. But if he wants to be traded a la Lannan, but is doing his complaining in DC rather than Syracuse, it might be better to get what you can for him and move on.

Has anyone here read what kind of a club house guy he is? I think he pushed a few of Davey's buttons last year.

Donald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
notBobby said...

Normally, I would think Morse will be traded. But, after Rizzo's hardlie stance with Lannan last year, who knows? Rizzo didn't think he was offered enough for Lannan so he left him in Syracuse. RIzzo has fought hard to be known around the league as a guy who does not give players away, but always looks for a fair trade. With ALR coming back to DC so late in the winter, there may not be enough trade partners in the game who are willing to give enough for Rizzo to let Morse go. Morse may be this year's Lannan - except in DC as Donald said. I really hope not.

DezoPenguin said...

Yeah, I agree with Harper on this one. Move Morse if what we get back is equal or superior to him in terms of value to the team in games won, otherwise keep him and take advantage of having a superior bat on the bench in case of interleague DH, days off, and/or injury.

ESPN suggests that the Yankees are interested. Which makes a ton of sense for them: Morse has one year left so he won't affect their long-term salary dump plans, and they need a DH.

Ben said...

Seems like his trade value would be about the same at the deadline as it is now with a chance for it to be quite a bit higher depending on which sellers sucked and what over-hyped team is desperate. Last year there was certainly a dearth of bats available because of the extra WC ... can't be too much different this year. Also its not like you have to declare a "bench" guy and a "starter", 5 guys for 4 spots is a pretty easy rotation to manage (though you'd prolly want Harper to play nearly every day), and would be an excellent hedge against injury.

Unless someone wants to overpay, I don't see why you would trade him before the season, decent relievers are found on the scrap heap all the time, a bat with AVG. and power is not.

K.C. said...

"Five million isn't onerous"

He's making $7 million. Just an fyi.

Donald said...

One other thing to consider is if Morse stays, then he has to replace someone on the bench. The bench currently looks to contain Ramos, Lombo, Moore, Tracy and Bernadina. If Morse stays, then who leaves? Moore would be the logical person since he fills essentially the same role. Does he have any minor league options left? I don't think Bernadina has any options and they'd want to keep him for his speed and defense. They could cut Tracy and suck up the salary, but he can play 3rd, a little bit, and is a lefty.

Strasburger said...

I don't see what all the non-educated fuss is about dealing Morse. Laroche is the better option. A gold glove at first base cannot be overvalued, solidifying one of the best infields in the majors. I'm really excited about next year. All the pieces have falling into place.

I haven't posted since the game in October because I literally could not bear to, but this deal has really made me happy about the Nats coaching staff and honestly their whole management structure. This team is being dealt with very tactfully and with respect for money and sucess for years to come.

The person I am most excited to watch in 2013 is Danny. For some reason I really have a lot of random faith that he has another level offensively (we've seen what he can do on defense) and that he can bring that K number down with maturity.

I expect Bryce to take it to another level this year as well, but then again, everyone does.

What about Ramos? Really think he'll be kept out by Kurt?

Ben said...

Actually the more I think about it, for someone like KC there is no way they overpay to start the year (for a guy with 1 year of control left like Morse) ... but if they are in WC distance and Jeff Frenchy French Franceour just put up a -2 WAR first half (ok, he isn't thaaat bad)? You'd think they would give up a lot more at that point. I'm gonna root for this scenario.

Side point, it seems like Morse feasts on crappy pitching and is not very dangerous to elite pitchers (disclaimer: I have absolutely no evidence for this other than my facepalms every time Morse K'd on balls in the dirt against the Cards) so I don't love his playoff value.

Nattydread said...

Nice to have a story that isn't about whether RGIII should've been pulled or whether Rizzo is a better injury manager than Shanahan.

45 days til pitchers and catchers report.

Rizzo will ride them phones hard. If he doesn't get the value he wants, he may showcase Morse for a couple of months hoping he rocks out & trade him at the deadline for prospects...

Tyler Moore needs at bats.

Anonymous said...

Well if they trade him, they will probably do better than Ryan Langerhans.

Froggy said...

You would rather have Moore over Morse to back up ALR? I love the Shark, but one injury to the outfield and the Beast is back in the lineup. Unless an AL team makes a great LHP offer, I think Morse stays until the AB.

Besides it just won't be the same without...'take on me, take me on, I'll be a day or two!'

Options Trading said...

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Anonymous said...

Morse was great coming off the bench the year before he started if I remember correctly

Anonymous said...

2009 - 55 PA - .772 OPS
2010 - 293 PA - .870 OPS

I don't know if he was a distraction to other guys during those years, but seems like he can stay focused in limited appearances.

Donald said...

@Froggy -- I'd rather have Morse off the bench than Moore, but only if Moore has options and can be stashed in AAA. I don't think I'd lose Moore for 1 more year of Morse. I also agree that the best reason to keep Morse is in case of injury. He's the one who would fill in without a doubt. But barring injury, you probably don't want to lose Bernadina, who's the only one on the bench with any speed in exchange for an occassional pinch hit from Morse.

I guess that's what it boils down to for Rizzo -- if you think your Werth, Harper and LaRoche are going to be healthy for most of the year, you don't really need Morse sitting around. If you think any of them could miss significant time, you hold on to Morse unless a really great deal comes up.

Anonymous said...

Davey has already said you can't put Morse on the bench bc he has established himself as an everyday player. Lannan was different last year bc they knew they'd need innings with Strasburg and Lannan is at best a 4th or 5th starter. It's not like he was killing everyone in the minors.
I think Rizzo will talk up the possibility of keeping Morse in order try to drive up the price.
Either way, Morse gets traded. Makes me a little sad, though I do think LaRoche is a slightly better move. The real question - should they have traded for Span. 30 HRs from Harper in center with 30 HRs from Morse in left with Werth leading off. That's a winner to me.

Anonymous said...

DON'T TRADE MICHAEL MORSE. He is very popular with the fans. He has a lot of wit and keeps the fans and team laughing. His has just been injure, so give him a chance now that he's had tim to heal. He has been a great power hitter for the Nats. Harper said "I'm for keeping Morse. Mike Rizzo may want to release or trade him. I doubt I'll be interested in watching the games.

Kenny B. said...

There's no doubt that Morse is a more vibrant in-game personality than LaRoche (I'm partially convinced LaRoche is an android), but in the end, LaRoche is a better player, which is all that really matters.

Like others, I think I like the idea of hanging onto Morse and getting more trade value for him around the trade deadline to some fluky first half team looking to shore up for a doomed run at October. Use that to try and rebuild a little depth in the minors.

No matter what happens with Morse, the team is likely to be good, and 2013 should be a fun season to watch. Who would have thought that in 2012 DC would have so many playoff teams? Really a good time to be a sports fan here.

Anonymous said...

Fans: Take Morse on!
Morse: Take me on?
Rizzo: You'll be gone...for a prospect or twooooooooooo

Here's hoping those prospects don't materialize and us fans are serenading Mikey with the A-Ha version next year. I like the platoon and hedge plan and think it makes most sense for the organization. Will take some pride swallowing for Mikey but he loves it here and I imagine he would also love another great shot at a ring.

Harper said...

blovy8 - but shouldn't we read that as a cost thing? He's said the Nats need it.

C&S - Braves, even though that deal really makes sense in a way, Venters is cheap through 2016

Donald - no idea. that's really where Zuck/Kilgore/etc earn there paycheck so let's see if they say anything.

nB - Rizzo is more the wild card in this than the other teams. Yes, he wants a fair deal but what does HE consider fair. As others have pointed out Morse is an injury risk DH good for one year only.

I think he gets dealt if only because he can't go down to AAA.

Dezo - Clay Rapada, Clay Rapada, Clay Rapada

Ben - problem with in-season trade is he's not going to playing that much and what if he's doing nothing? No one will give anything for him. I think his value isn't going to be higher than now.

KC - 6.75! but yeah you're right, it's noticeably more than 5 and that matters.

Donald - I'm sure Moore must have options. He'd would go back to the minors. Rizzo works those options.

S-burger - I think people just really like Morse is all. Fan Favorite and such. As for the team, I agree on Danny, but I'm also interested in Ian. Lots of guys have one good year. I'm in the Bryce breaks out camp too but if he doesn't, it's no biggy just means it'll happen in 2014. It's coming. Ramos' time depends A LOT on injury. Supposedly a tough one to come back from and play catcher effectively.

Ben - I suppose, but still it's a half-year of a guy. You're not getting Wil Myers back.

ND - "Tyler Moore needs at bats" Agreed, because better prospects at his position are presumably coming and the Nats need to know what they got here.

Anon #1 - Hey! Langerhans was mildly underrated!

Froggy - Morse. I don't like Moore. He's Morse with no seasons of proof behind him

Anon #2 - not at first but then yes, he came around

Anon #3 - there you go, forget anything I said. Hitters hit. The question is more, can he do it with the right attitude though. RIzzo is all about the attitude.

Anon #4 - Davey doesn't want to but I don't think any talk from Rizzo will convince other teams Morse isn't there bench guy to start the year. Nothing else makes sense.

As for Span - it's all about the defense. Rizzo has made that clear. (plus Morse FA status)

Anon #5 - But where does he play? At best he'd be cycling through 3 positions and DH and do you realy want him taking that many ABs from Bryce or Werth? If you aren't watching Nats games because Morse isn't there you're crazy. TONS of better players on this team. Try that Bryce Harper fella.

Kenny B - Maybe if you were projecting from the late 80s?

Anon last - Going to be a simplke question- will some team give Rizzo what he wants for 2013 and beyond. He'll trade that bench presence this year for a cheap solution to other issues in upcoming ones.