Prodigal son returns, with power

Seattle trades for former prospect Mike Morse, sending John Jaso to A’s

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Mike Morse left the Seattle Mariners an unproven talent – athletic and powerful, but a player who could never crack the everyday big league lineup and was buried in Triple-A Tacoma.

He returns to Seattle as a proven major league hitter with a propensity for power and home runs.

On Wednesday, the Mariners traded for their former prospect, acquiring Morse from the Washington Nationals in a three-team trade that sent Seattle catcher John Jaso to the Oakland A’s. The third part of the deal has A’s pitching prospect A.J. Cole heading to Washington.

“We like this deal because we think there’s an awful lot that Michael can bring to us,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “He’s got big-time power. He’s obviously grown and accomplished quite a bit since he’s been in Washington.”

It was the Mariners who sent Morse, then a Rainiers player, to the Nationals for outfielder Ryan Langerhans in 2009.

Morse fought his way into the Nationals’ lineup at the end of the 2010 season as a bench player then a platoon starter in left field. He hit .289 with 15 homers and 41 RBI in 89 games. In 2011, he earned a spot in the everyday lineup and blossomed, hitting .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI and a .910 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).

Last season, an abdominal injury in spring training caused him to miss the first 50 games.

“I missed 50 games, but people don’t realize I didn’t get to play spring training either,” Morse said. “When I did come back, I had maybe 20 at-bats on a minor league rehab stint.”

Still, he hit .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBI in 102 games.

“It certainly gives you some big pop in this lineup,” Zduriencik said. “We were looking for a banger, and in Michael we got that. It gives you a different dynamic.”

The Mariners part ways with arguably their most productive hitter last season. Splitting time at catcher and DH, Jaso hit .276 with 10 homers and 50 RBI and an OPS of .850

“Certainly Jaso has been a big part here and added a lot last year, but when you are in position to acquire an everyday guy who hits the ball hard and far, that does change your game,” Zduriencik said. “One thing we’ve seen here is a lack of raw, flat power. In adding Mike, we got a guy who has big-time power.”

Indeed, Morse has hit 11 homers that traveled at least 440 feet the past two seasons. So old Safeco Field or newly remodeled Safeco Field won’t really bother him.

“I feel good about myself,” he said. “I have more confidence than anybody. I know a lot of people think Safeco is tough to hit the ball out of. But if you ask me, I can hit the ball out of the Grand Canyon. Safeco’s fences are not a problem for me.”

Morse didn’t have that type of power in his first stint with the Mariners. He was acquired along with Jeremy Reed and Miguel Olivo in the 2004 trade that sent Freddy Garcia and Ben Davis to the Chicago White Sox. He was drafted as a shortstop but bounced around through different positions. In 2008, a he was expected to see significant playing time in the Mariners’ outfield after hitting more than .400 during spring training. But an awkward dive for a ball five games into the season resulted in a torn labrum that finished him for the year. From there, he never could get back to the big club with the Mariners.

“I always felt I had unfinished business in Seattle,” Morse said. “I never got to prove myself completely or be the player I could be or who I am. This is another opportunity for me to show Jack and help this ballclub be the World Series contender that it should be.”

Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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