Since the Nationals franchise came into existence in 2005 there have been 11 total trades completed by the organization. One of those deals was brokered by former General Manager Jim Bowden, and we’ve already discussed that one in this space. So, let’s continue the series and move on to the deals completed by current GM Mike Rizzo.
Midway through the 2009 season, the Seattle Mariners found themselves dealing with numerous injuries and were struggling to field enough depth to maintain some semblance of competitiveness. At the conclusion of their game on June 27th the team sat in third place in the AL West with a 38-36 record.
At that point in time Michael Morse was recovering from shoulder surgery that had kept him out for nearly the entire 2008 season. Morse had originally been drafted in 2000 (3rd round) by the Chicago White Sox. He was acquired by the Mariners in 2004 as part of the package of players received when the team sent Freddy Garcia to Chicago’s South Side. Morse would make his MLB debut the following May.
Morse was primarily a shortstop when he first arrived in Seattle. However, the presence of Yuniesky Betancourt – who was/is a far superior defender at the position – pushed Morse into a utility role. Over the next four seasons Morse would receive playing time at every position on the field except for second base, center field, pitcher, and catcher. He batted .300/.365/.397 in 337 plate appearances in the Majors during that time. Yet, despite the offensive potential and the defensive versatility he never seemed to get a serious look from the Mariners.
Meanwhile, in Washington the Nationals were in the midst of what seemingly was becoming the “status quo” for the team. They were already 22-51 at the time, dead last in the NL East. While the team may not have been looking to make any major moves, it certainly had to be open to the idea of moving some parts that didn’t figure into the team’s plans longterm. Of course, any opportunity to better the organization needed to be considered.
While the Mariners were trying to determine what their options were at that point in time in the 2009 season – they were in need of outfield depth and potentially a third baseman – they had Morse stashed away in Triple-A. It was starting to become evident that he didn’t figure into the team’s plans moving forward so on June 28th, 2009 the Mariners and Nationals agreed to a trade.
The Nationals would receive Morse.
The Mariners would receive outfielder Ryan Langerhans.
Langerhans had originally been drafted by the Atlanta Braves during the 1998 Draft (3rd round) and had already been traded twice in his career prior to the deal which sent him to Seattle. Atlanta initially dealt the outfielder to the Oakland Athletics to complete a prior deal. He was then dealt just two months later to Washington in exchange for outfielder Chris Snelling.
Langerhans was principally a platoon player for much of the early years of his career, often coming into games for defensive reasons and rarely seeing significant at bats. It’s ultimately where his value was most prevalent. He had also been playing at Triple-A at the time of the trade, where he was batting .278/.371/.488 in 242 plate appearances.
Since the trade he’s split his time between Seattle and their Triple-A affiliate. In the three years that have passed, Langerhans is batting a mere .200/.326/.350 in 318 plate appearances. The left-hander will turn 32 prior to the start of the 2012 season and it remains to be seen where he will be playing when that time comes.
Between Seattle’s and Washington’s Triple-A affiliates in 2009, Morse batted .322/.383/.511 with 16 HR in 472 plate appearances and earned a callup to the Nationals. He hasn’t seen much of the minor leagues since then.
This past season, in particular, was a true breakout season for Morse. In 575 plate appearances he batted .303/.360/.550 with 31 HR and 95 RBI. He set career highs in nearly every offensive category. He quickly became a fan favorite in Washington. He split his season between left field and first base, demonstrating a versatility originally developed by the Mariners organization that had never been willing to give him a big role.
The Final Verdict
Morse will head into arbitration for the first time this offseason and will remain under team control for at least three more seasons before reaching free agency. Taking into consideration the lack of production the Mariners received from Langerhans and the fact that he’s no longer with the organization (The Arizona Diamondbacks purchased the rights to Langerhans from Seattle this past August. However, they never called him up from Triple-A before the season ended.) it is safe to say that this deal is heavily in favor of Washington at this point. Morse’s 2011 season alone makes the deal worthwhile.
Of course, there was no way that Mike Rizzo or anyone else could have known how well this deal would work out for the Nationals organization. Though it’s a nice piece for the resume considering it was Rizzo’s first trade as General Manager.