LaRoche stays in Washington, opens up trade market for Morse

The big baseball news today was that first baseman Adam LaRoche has agreed to a two-year, $24 million guaranteed deal to stay with the Washington Nationals.

LaRoche, who turned down a $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Nats, found it rough on the free agent market because had another team signed him, it would have had to surrender a first round draft pick in 2013. LaRoche hit .271 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI last year and could have been a valuable lefty-hitting first baseman for many teams, but the draft pick seemed to scare teams away.

Mike Morse during outfield practice with the Washington Nationals in March 2010. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

LaRoche was never a target of the Yankees or Mets, but his signing does open up a new possibility for both New York teams.

With Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Worth as everyday players in the outfield, Ryan Zimmerman and LaRoche at the corners and Ian Desmond at shortstop, suddenly Mike Morse doesn’t have a spot on the Nationals’ roster.

Morse, who hit .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 430 plate appearances last year, could be a fit in either the Yankees’ or Mets’ outfield.

Morse has just one full everyday type of season at the major league level under his belt. He played in 146 games for the Nationals in 2011. Morse missed the beginning of the 2012 season with a lat strain.

Would Washington trade him within the division to the Mets? It’s pretty unlikely, unless the return was so good that they couldn’t say no. The Nationals’ starting rotation is pretty much set for 2013: Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler. Washington is likely looking to stock up its farm system again and the Mets could fit the bill in that regard, but they’ll have plenty of competition from other teams looking to add Morse’s power.

The Yankees could certainly use Morse as a right-handed compliment in a platoon with Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki in the corner outfield spots as well as with Kevin Youkilis at DH. However, since Washington doesn’t have many needs at the major league level, I’m not sure if the Yankees have enough in the farm system to satisfy the Nationals’ brass in a trade proposal. The Yankees will almost certainly be players in the Morse market, but they’re far from the best fit in making a trade that works for both sides.

One of the most likely landing spots for Morse is Seattle, where he began his career. Morse has also spent time at first base and shortstop, although he hasn’t played significant time at short since his rookie season of 2005. Seattle traded Morse to Washington for Ryan Langerhans in June 2009. Oops. Would the Mariners be willing to cough up a worthy prospect or two to get Morse back?

Your thoughts on the hot stove? Let me know on Twitter: @THR_Montgomery.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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