Just over a month ago, the Washington Nationals were looking to move Mike Morse for pitching. As it happened, the Tampa Bay Rays happened to have a pitcher available in James Shields, and were in need of another bat in the lineup. It seemed almost inevitable that Morse would be a Ray, and probably in the near future. Then the Nationals signed Dan Haren to a one year deal and the Rays traded Shields to the Kansas City Royals. It seemed as though a possible deal involving Morse heading to Tampa may be dead.
However, with the Nationals resigning Adam LaRoche to a two year contract and having completely retooled their outfield, they do not appear to have a place for Morse in their everyday lineup. As such, the Nationals are once again open to the possibility of moving Morse. This time, they are rumored to be seeking a left handed relief pitcher, and/or prospects.
Once again, Tampa has been considered a likely destination for Morse. While the Rays have a dearth of left handed relief pitching, as Jake McGee and Cesar Ramos are the only lefty relievers on the 40 man roster with significant time on the major league roster, they do have one of the top farm systems in baseball. With the Nationals open to receiving prospects for Morse, the potential for the Rays to make a deal increases.
Morse could provide the Rays with the type of impact bat that they seek to slot in the lineup behind Evan Longoria. He has been an excellent power hitter, averaging just over 21 home runs a season in his last three years, including 31 home runs in 2011. Over that time frame, Morse has produced a .296/.345/.516 batting line, with 198 RBIs to go along with his 64 home runs. Even though he appears to have problems with plate discipline, walking 74 times while striking out 287 times in the past three years, his power may be enough to offset his strikeout rate.
However, Morse has stated that he truly does not want to be a designated hitter. Even though he could nominally play first base, left, and right field, he is not a good defensive player. Morse has consistently been subpar in the field, with a negative zone rating and below average range factors. He has also battled injury throughout his career, missing time with calf, shoulder, and back problems. Given his injury history and defensive limitations, Morse may find himself primarily as a designated hitter despite his protestations. Also, his injury history and defensive issues may limit with the Nationals could expect to receive for his services.
Depending on his cost, Mike Morse may yet end up as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. It just may take longer than had been anticipated.