Michael Morse, the Washington Nationals fan favorite, has been traded to the Seattle Mariners, according to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post. It is a three-team deal that will bring top pitching prospect AJ Cole back to the Nats. Cole was traded to the Oakland Athletics in the Gio Gonzalez trade last offseason.
Most people accepted that this day was coming for Morse after the Nats re-signed Adam LaRoche last week, but now it is official. Nats fans will have to say goodbye to Morse's personality, which most will miss more than his production, but looking at the baseball side of this deal, Mike Rizzo has once again won a trade. And pretty significantly.
The Nats will get back Cole, who struggled at the beginning of 2012 in High-A but started to have some success after moving down to Low-A in the Oakland organization. Before being sent to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez trade, Cole was the number four overall prospect for the Nationals. Only Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Brad Peacock, who is now with Oakland, were ahead of him. And despite his 2012 struggles, Cole was the number three overall prospect for the A's last year. He leapfrogged Peacock in his new organization.
According to Amanda Comak of The Washington Times, the Nats will also get back a "good" prospect and a player to be named later, and the PTBNL will be from Oakland, says Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. This is cleaning house for the Nats, who had no on-the-field need for Morse with their lineup completely stacked.
All of this doesn't even account for the most obvious fact. Mike Rizzo, over the course of just three seasons, essentially traded Ryan Langerhans, who the Nats sent to Seattle in the 2009 Morse deal, for AJ Cole, who was in the Nats organization as recently as 2011. Luck obviously played into this equation a bit, but to get the Mariners to agree to this trade at all is absolutely remarkable. It's a very good trade for the Nats, but an absolutely horrendous trade for Seattle. Dave Cameron of USS Mariner and Fangraphs agrees.
On a human level, it's a sad day for the Nationals and Nats fans. Morse is a beloved character in DC, and that will never change. Further, as I've mentioned before, the team absolutely must find a way to incorporate "Take On Me" at Nats Park in his absence in 2013. But on a baseball level, it's just another brilliant move from the playbook of Mike Rizzo.