Slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche returns to the Nationals.
LaRoche was one of the top power hitters on the free-agent market this winter, but the new rules of the collective bargaining agreement seem to have negatively impacted his ability to assemble offers and receive top value for his talents. After swatting a career-high 33 HR and driving in 100 runs for the second consecutive year, all LaRoche gets is a two-year, $24M contract with an option for a third. Granted, that’s not peanuts, and he is 33, but he might’ve done better if teams didn’t have to forfeit a first-round pick to sign him. Similarly, Kyle Lohse are Michael Bourn are finding the winter chilly, and one has to wonder if the MLBPA will re-think the compensation rules to which they agreed.
With LaRoche in the fold, the Nats are now aggressively shopping Michael Morse. Obviously, the Mets could use a righthanded, power-hitting corner outfielder. But can they afford his $6.75M contract? Do they have anything of value that the Nationals want and the Mets can spare? Rumors are flying that the Nats would like to get a lefthanded reliever in return for Morse, but if that’s the case, I’d think they’re shopping for a proven veteran like a Randy Choate, Matt Thornton, or Boone Logan. Too bad Tim Byrdak blew out his shoulder, or he might’ve been the chip the Mets could offer. I don’t see the Nats settling for someone like Josh Edgin or Robert Carson, who right now are relatively unknown entities.
Here’s a completely out of left field idea, though — would the Nats consider trading Morse for Johan Santana? No, I don’t think Johan would be valuable out of the bullpen, but maybe as a fifth starter, pushing LHP Ross Detwiler into a swing role. Why would the Nats do this? To have a veteran presence who once was an elite talent around their youngsters, and also to roll the dice that Santana still has a few great October games left in him. Though, it seems they already found that gamble in Dan Haren. But hey, who knows what the Nats are thinking? And as long as we’re dreaming, imagine if the Nats agreed to take on all of Johan’s salary? No, it’s too perfect from the Mets’ point of view.
One detail to consider: Morse is in the final year of his contract, and logic would suggest that the 30-year-old would shop his wares in free agency next winter. The way things look now, I find it difficult to believe the Mets would be able to extend or re-sign Morse, but there are two decent reasons to make a deal for him anyway. First, there’s always the possibility of flipping him at the trade deadline to a power-starved playoff contender — the A’s did this successfully with Matt Holliday a few years back, and it netted them three minor leaguers. Alternatively, the Mets could hold on to Morse through the end of the year, then make him a one-year, $12M-$13M “qualifying offer” for 2014. Even at that rate, Morse could be a pretty good deal, so if he accepts, great (remember, we keep being told that the Mets will have “flexibility” as of 2014). If he declines, the Mets get an extra draft pick at the end of the first round of the June 2014 draft. Of course, you have to buy into the story that the Mets will be flush with money — and be willing to spend it — when the Santana and Jason Bay contracts go off the books.
What do you think? Do the Mets have anything to offer the Nats for Morse? Is there any possibility they’d be able to re-sign or extend him? Should they?
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.