Talks are heating up in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. While the Rays have no chance to get Fielder, the Rays could be affected by the signing. Just like the Angels signing of Albert Pujols, the Nationals already have a great incumbent first baseman in Michael Morse. What could propel the Rays to a trade with the Nationals is the fact that the Nationals have been interested in BJ Upton for quite a while.
There is a pretty good chance that the Nationals could want to keep the 29 year old Morse, moving him to a corner outfield spot and playing Jayson Werth in center. Werth would be a decent center field option for them. But if they are not sold on Werth’s center field ability, they could ramp up their center field search and turn to the Rays for Upton.
Morse would be a great return for the Rays in an Upton deal. Morse is still young and is under team control for three more seasons. Morse had a monster year for the Nationals last year, hitting .303 with 31 homers in 146 games. We can also safely say it is not a fluke, as he had a great year in 2009, hitting .286 with 15 homers in only 98 games.
While he is a big bat at the plate, he is not bad with the glove. In 85 games at first, he made only 6 errors, equating to a .992 fielding percentage, which is just a little below the NL average. Morse did spend 55 games in left field last year, so he could provide some flexibility for the Rays. He would most likely spend most, if not all, of his time at first, but Joe Maddon loves to have flexible players on his team.
Morse would provide the Rays with a huge right handed bat to go behind Evan Longoria. He may take more than BJ Upton to get a deal done, but the Rays could easily throw in a starter to provide the Nats with a fifth starter to go in their rotation that just keeps getting better. A potential deal will all hinge on the Nationals ability to sign Prince Fielder to a mega deal.
It is clear that the Rays have plenty of options at first base via trade, from the Angels two slugging first baseman to the potential availability of Michael Morse. Plus, the Anthony Rizzo deal is still very much on the table. Beyond that, if they can’t swing a trade they can still look to Carlos Pena or even Casey Kotchman. While the Rays have yet to do anything with their first base void yet this offseason, there are still plenty of chances to fill the hole with a big time bat.