ESPN’s Rumors Central points out that with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder each in the midst of a playoff race, the best potential option for a first baseman midseason might be a trade for the Nationals’ Mike Morse.
"He's not a world beater, which means he's not a No. 3 or 4 hitter in a playoff lineup, but he could be a nice fit in a lineup that needs some pop and has room at first base or at the DH spot. Seattle, for whom Morse first made his big-league debut, could be a fit, as could Texas, the Angels, or even the Braves if they get a bit impatient with Freddie Freeman and would prefer Eric Hinske remains available for utility duty."
ESPN is right that Morse is a great option for any team that wants to upgrade a first base for the second half of the season. He’s currently hitting .312 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI, and he has played absolutely stellar defense around the bag since switching from left field.
Morse has been so hot that he’s managed to bring his batting average above .300 despite a terrible April which saw him hit .224/.267/.284 in the team’s first 24 games. In fact, since switching to first base he has hit .359/.421/.738 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI in 28 games. That’s a small sample size for sure, but in that stretch he was putting up Pujolsesque numbers.
Even given his value, I have to disagree with ESPN here, I just can’t see the Nationals trading him at this point. Even if Morse is hitting at a level well above the batter he truly is, which I think is the case, he still represents a force in the lineup, which is something few others in Washington can claim.
The only reason Washington might want to move him is to make room for a healthy Adam LaRoche next season, but that would be a gutsy move to get rid of a guy who is hitting over .300 to clear a spot for a guy who couldn’t hit over .180 this season. As I’ve written in the past, I think Morse has supplanted LaRoche as the starting first baseman in Washington, regardless of anyone else’s contract.
There was a time not long ago that a 29-year-old overachieving first baseman would be something the Nationals would be forced to trade, but with a competitive season now in sight, the club must hold onto its weapons.
As ESPN points out, Morse will be arbitration eligible for just the second time this offseason, and even if he keeps up his great numbers, he wont be expected to make too too much in 2012.