Morse has a new home now, and it is, incidentally, the same as his old home. The Nationals sent Morse back to the Seattle Mariners in a three-way trade that netted them right-hander A.J. Cole, the pitching prospect who last winter served as the centerpiece of the trade that brought Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland A’s to the Nationals. The Mariners sent catcher John Jaso to the Oakland to complete the deal. The Nationals also received 24-year-old minor leaguer Blake Treinen and a player to be named from the A’s.
“I’m overjoyed. I’m excited,” Morse said. “It’s a great day for me and my family to just be in this situation. . . . One of the biggest things I want to do, I want to thank the Lerner family for giving me the opportunity and making me into the player and person I’ve become. The one person that actually believed in me, Mike Rizzo, I can’t thank him enough.”
The Nationals had been in discussions with multiple teams to trade Morse for weeks, talks that intensified last week once the Nationals re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche. With LaRoche in the fold and their outfield full, Morse became expendable. Morse, who turns 31 in March, has one year remaining on his contract and will make $6.75 million this season.
And so, when Morse saw a voicemail waiting for him Wednesday night from Rizzo, his general manager, he assumed what would come next. Morse expected to be traded. The only questions in his mind were where and when. Morse called Rizzo back, and Rizzo delivered the news.
“We had such a great conversation,” Morse said. “We just talked like friends.”
Rizzo explained that he hated to see Morse leave, but that the Nationals had received a quality return.
Cole, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who can hit the high-90s with his fastball, went 0-7 with a 7.82 ERA when Oakland started him at high-Class A Stockton. After a demotion to low- Class A, Cole improved and went 6-3 with a 2.07 ERA the rest of the season. His star has dimmed since the Nationals dealt him to Oakland, but he is still only 21 and still has the potential Washington saw in him when they signed him to a $2 million bonus out of the 2010 draft.
Cole’s return will help replenish the pitching in the Nationals’ minor league system, which had been depleted by several recent trades. They shipped top pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Denard Span, and they also dealt Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone to Oakland in the Gonzalez trade last offseason.