Are the Orioles targeting Morse instead of LaRoche?


Yesterday I wrote about a possible loophole through which the Baltimore Orioles could potentially work to obtain free agent Adam LaRoche without giving up a draft pick. For the record what I failed to mention was the possibility that hangs over  literally everything in Major League Baseball, which is the commissioner vetoing a move like that and invoking the “best interests of the game” clause. If he was so inclined Bud Selig could do that and claim that the Washington Nationals had lost out on a compensatory draft pick on a technicality. That’s not to say that the Orioles shouldn’t consider any avenue by which to get LaRoche, however the fact is that’s always a possibility.

Most industry sources expect that the O’s will either sign LaRoche, or trade for Michael Morse (who’s still under contract with Washington). Just to play devil’s advocate, is it not possible that Morse is and has been more on their radar the entire time? For his career, Morse is a .295 hitter with an OBP of .347, which LaRoche is only a career .268 hitter with an OBP of .343. LaRoche is also a gold glove first baseman, which does make a difference. However Morse is perhaps a younger version of LaRoche, thus wouldn’t it stand to reason that any team might be more interested in Morse?

Courtesy of Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

First off, nothing is set in stone that the Orioles are definitely going to get one of these two players. However assuming that they’re both in play for the Orioles, there are a couple of concerns that would come with Morse. He’s had some injury problems, and that’s the last thing that the Orioles will want to worry about in 2013. He’s also entering the final year of his contract, which is what makes him a trade candidate for Washington. (On the flip side, he might then come cheaper for the Orioles given that there’s a chance he might only be in Baltimore for one year.) So…what gives?

I have to believe that if the Orioles wanted to sign LaRoche they would have already done so. However regardless of what they say regarding being stuck on a two or three year deal, the same is true of Washington. The Orioles’ issue isn’t so much the amount of years on the contract as it is giving up that compensatory draft choice. My honest take is that I’d go after LaRoche, and if he ended up going back to Washington then Morse becomes very expendable for the Nationals. HOWEVER, one thing that the Orioles need to hope is that LaRoche doesn’t go to a team other than the Nationals. If he were to do that they would have lost out on him and Washington wouldn’t be in a position to be able to trade Morse.

The Orioles claim they’re willing to go into 2013 with Chris Davis as the starting first baseman, however I have to believe that’s nothing more than GM-speak. Davis struggled at first base last year, and furthermore how do the Orioles proceed to replace Mark Reynolds’ production in the order? Either LaRoche or Morse would do that and then some (they won’t strike out as often). I think that either player would be great additions to a lineup that plays 81 games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, and either guy’s bat would fit into the middle of the order very nicely. It’s just a matter of what direction in which the Orioles want to go.