Last month, I wrote about Mike Morse being a potential solution to the right field conundrum. Ichiro is now the official full-time right fielder, but Morse still could be the everyday DH while spelling Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, or Ichiro against a tough lefty. The Yankees need a right-handed batting outfielder, and Morse fits the bill.
With Adam LaRoche officially re-signing with Washington to play first base, and Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Jayson Werth patrolling the outfield, Morse is the odd man out. Reports indicate that the Yanks already have interest along with many other clubs. What will it take to fit Morse for pinstripes?Here’s what I wrote about Morse back in December:
Morse, 31 in March, offers good power from the right side. He never flashed it with Seattle (albeit in a sample size of plate appearances), but Morse broke out in Washington. He hit a career high 31 home runs in 2011, and has posted a .221 ISO since joining Washington in 2009. A 132 wRC+ in his Nationals’ career is nothing to bat an eye at over 1,353 plate appearances. As a plus, he’s hit lefties and righties virtually equally since 2009: 133 wRC+ vs lefties, 132 wRC+ against righties.
There are some big concerns, however. First: injury history. He had knee surgery in the minors in 2006, left shoulder surgery in 2008, and missed 50 games this past season due to right shoulder problems. Morse dealt with a few other nagging injuries throughout 2012 that forced him to miss 8 more games. He also does not take his share of walks, posting a 5.7% BB rate with the Nats. Defensively, Morse is a negative in both left and right field per UZR and DRS.
Considering his health concerns, he’s probably better suited as the full-time DH, which makes the Bronx a good landing spot. We can’t simply assume Alex Rodriguez is going to return and play that role. Even if A-Rod comes back effectively, having 10 adept players for 9 lineup spots isn’t a bad problem to have. Besides, Ichiro really isn’t that good of a hitter at this stage of his career, so Morse taking some playing time from him in right field wouldn’t be the end of the world.
What would Morse cost the Yankees? The Nationals are interested in rotational depth and bullpen help. After losing lefty reliever Sean Burnett to the Angels in free agency, there could be a match with the Yanks in the form of Boone Logan. Unfortunately, that’s certainly not enough of a return for Morse. I could see the Yankees dangle Joba Chamberlain in addition or instead of Logan, considering he’s a free agent to be after 2013 (as is Morse, by the way). As for starting depth, Washington would probably be interested in David Phelps, but I doubt the Yankees’ willingness to include him. Perhaps Adam Warren, or even a project like Dellin Betances may be attractive to Washington.
Personally, I’d prefer to hold onto Phelps, and I’d also like to see Betances get a chance in the bullpen within the Yankees organization before parting ways. I’d also like to keep Joba, but considering he’ll be a free agent after this year, I don’t think he should be a hold up to the deal. Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo inquires about Mark Montgomery. However, I wouldn’t want to deal Montgomery for a one-year rental in Morse.
Furthermore, maybe the Yankees can try to kill two birds with one stone in such a deal. With Washington’s starting catcher Wilson Ramos expected to be 100% by spring training, could Kurt Suzuki be available? Suzuki isn’t much of a hitter (career 87 wRC+), but is very good defensively per UZR and RPP (blocked pitches in terms of runs above average). He’s also thrown out just under 28% of potential base stealers in his career. He’s been a starting catcher since 2008, and thus would be a more reliable option than Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli.
Financially, Morse and Suzuki make $6.75M and $6.45M respectively in 2013, both reasonable amounts to take on. Morse’s deal expires after 2013, and Suzuki’s $8.5M 2014 option can be bought out for $650K. This leaves no complications for the Yankees in their attempt to stay under the $189M budget next year, so this is this type of trade the Yankees must pursue.
If a package for Morse and Suzuki consisted of Logan, Chamberlain, and Warren, we also must consider the implications for the Yankees’ bullpen. On the surface, the underbelly certainly seems a bit weaker. However, Clay Rapada actually was more effective vs. lefties than Logan over the past three seasons, so Rapada becoming the primary LOOGY would actually be preferable even if Logan stays around. Plus, the organization liked Rule V pick Cesar Cabral last spring training before getting hurt. As for Chamberlain’s loss, there would be some added pressure on David Aardsma in the 6th/7th inning. Of course, we also have to worry about how effective Mariano Rivera will be returning from knee surgery. In the minors, though, guys like Montgomery and Chase Whitley could contribute in 2013.
Ultimately, I’d love to just swap Logan and Warren for Morse and Suzuki, but the Nats could probably do better elsewhere. Thus, I’d be willing to include Joba to facilitate the trade. It will help the Yankees stay competitive in 2013, while remaining in line with the 2014 budget.
Kurt Suzuki photo by dbking on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons