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MLB Trade Rumors: LaRoche Signing Could Pave Way for Michael Morse to Tampa Bay

After insisting on a three year deal but ultimately failing to land one, first baseman Adam LaRoche agreed to resign with the Washington Nationals for a two year deal with a mutual third year option.

Now that the Nats have a permanent solution at first base and a full outfield after trading for Denard Span, it appears Washington is ready to field offers for Michael Morse.

Morse enjoyed a solid 2012 season, batting .291/.321/.470 with 18 home runs. Hitting at least .289 in each of the last three seasons, Morse could certainly add a middle of the order bat to a team seeking an offensive upgrade.

For a team like the Tampa Bay Rays that struggled offensively while third baseman Evan Longoria dealt with a hamstring injury for most of the season, Morse could help in this area.

The Rays ranked just 27th in the MLB in batting average. While the Rays did acquire some decent players via trade and free agency, a combination of Yunel Escobar, James Loney and eventually Wil Myers won’t propel their offense to the top of the league this coming season, especially given the departures of B.J. Upton and Jeff Keppinger.

Tampa Bay also lacks a true power bat in their lineup. Last season, first baseman Carlos Pena and Luke Scott failed to fill this clear void, and the need still exists. While Morse’s 18 home runs last season are solid, he is only one year removed from hitting 31 homers. If he can return to form at Tropicana Field, the Rays would be a considerably improved team.

Therefore, it makes sense to add another bat. With a free agent market largely picked over at this point, Tampa Bay may look into upgrading their lineup through a trade, and Morse would certainly be on their radar.

Defensively, Morse is capable of playing several positions. While he is considered a poor defensive outfielder, he could fill in from time to time when necessary. He could also play first base, especially against left handed pitching, as Loney hit just .217 against left-handers last season and .218 for his career. Against right handers, Morse could act as a designated hitter given the fact that Loney hits a career .287 against right handers.

The Rays truly value this type of versatility. Looking at their roster, players like Ben Zobrist and Ryan Roberts who are capable of playing several positions fit well in Tampa Bay, as manager Joe Maddon routinely tweaks his lineups for each situation.

The only drawback to acquiring a talent like Morse is his contract. He makes $7 million next season, which is considered costly for a team like the Rays. Because he only has one year left on his deal, he would likely depart after the season.

Morse would be a great fit, but because he only has one year left, it is vital that the Rays don’t overpay to acquire his services. Given the fact that Tampa Bay just dealt James Shields and Wade Davis to the Kansas City Royals, the Rays have to be careful about trading too much pitching, especially with Cy Young winner David Price likely leaving sooner rather than later. The Rays would be smart to acquire Morse, but only at the right price to ensure that a strength doesn’t become a need.

General manager Andrew Friedman has already made a few trades this offseason and is always looking to improve his ball-club. At the right price, Morse would be a great short-term addition to a squad desperate for a power hitter.

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Tampa Bay Rays: Wil Myers Is the Perfect Trade Target

The Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff has been the subject of several trade rumors over the years, as the team has been successful due to its top-notch rotation with an abundance of quality arms.

This winter won’t be any different, especially given the intense competition in the AL East.

With the blockbuster deal the Toronto Blue Jays just pulled off to get Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, they have emerged as a contender. The New York Yankees will likely make a couple moves this offseason as well.

The Baltimore Orioles were one of the most surprising teams in baseball and look to improve in 2013. And after a dismal season, the Boston Red Sox will likely look to make a free-agent splash in an effort to ascend back into prominence.

In what now appears to be the best division in baseball, the Rays can’t afford to get by with a lackluster offense any longer. 

With names like James Shields, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson being thrown around as potential trade options, the Rays will likely look to make a move this winter.

One name the Rays should keep an eye on is top prospect Wil Myers of the Kansas City Royals.

Myers did not play in the majors this season, but that was more of a formality than a player issue, as Myers is now under team control for an additional year.

The Futures Game MVP hit .304/.378/.554 in Triple-A this season, while slugging 24 home runs. The best prospect in the Royals’ system, Myers looks like he’s going to be a stud.

He would fit perfectly in Tampa Bay, as the Rays will surely lose B.J. Upton to free agency. By sliding Desmond Jennings to center field, Myers and Matt Joyce could occupy the corner outfield spots, with Sam Fuld and utility player Ben Zobrist playing there occasionally as well.

Zobrist could remain primarily in the infield, as shortstop and second base certainly lacked production last season.

A lineup featuring the improving Jennings, Myers, Zobrist, a healthy Evan Longoria,and Joyce could be enough to get by. While there are still other positions of need on offense, such as catcher and first base, the Rays could get a potential star in Myers.

So why would Kansas City part with their prized 21-year-old?

The Royals are desperate for pitching and want to contend. They have solid bats in Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler, but their pitching remains the issue.

They have already traded for Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels, but Santana had a poor year last season and it is not clear whether he will be able to return to form. The Royals took a calculated risk, but Santana is still not going to fix their pitching woes.

Likewise, they will surely be in the market for some starters in free agency, potentially pitchers such as Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Joe Blanton, Shaun Marcum and Brandon McCarthy.

However, the Royals lack the financial assets to land a marquee pitcher such as Zach Greinke and may look to deal in an effort to nab a front-line starter.

As Kansas City searches for an ace, the Rays could be a fit, although the Royals would probably not want James Shields, who is under team control for two seasons, in exchange for Myers, who has plenty of upside and is under contract for much longer.

However, a pitcher like Jeremy Hellickson, who is under team control through 2016, could be a fit.

A former Rookie of the Year, Hellickson is a terrific pitcher who enjoyed an excellent season last year. Posting a 3.10 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, Hellickson was one of the many strong starters in the Rays’ rotation. A player of Hellickson’s caliber could surely entice the Royals.

For the Rays, it would be tough sacrificing a 25-year-old pitcher who has shown that he can be consistently effective.

However, Hellickson is represented by Scott Boras, so negotiating a contract that buys out his arbitration years or extending him afterward swill prove to be difficult, especially given Hellickson’s consistency.

For a financially limited team like the Rays, it may make more sense to trade him for a player like Myers.

Young lefty Matt Moore also could be a trade target. However, I think it would be foolish of Tampa Bay to part with Moore after the promise he showed this season.

A 3.81 ERA and 1.35 WHIP is pretty solid for a 23-year-old rookie. But it gets even better when you look at his numbers in the second half of the season, as Moore steadily improved as the season progressed. His ERA dropped to 3.01 after the All-Star break. A strikeout machine, Moore is definitely going to make a name for himself in this league.

What makes him more valuable than Hellickson is his contract situation. Before the beginning of last season, the Rays signed Moore to a five-year, $14 million contract, a deal that will soon become one of the biggest bargains in MLB. Parting with that type of contract could be devastating for the cash-strapped Rays.

With a rotation that features reigning Cy Young winner David Price, Shields, Hellickson, Moore and Jeff Niemann, the Rays have a solid rotation. With players such as Wade Davis, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer capable of starting, it may be in their best interest to deal from this surplus to aid their suffering offense. 

I don’t think the Rays should trade Moore, but Tampa Bay should certainly pursue Myers as the Royals are craving solid starting pitching. Hellickon may be the best fit. If it could net the Rays an elite outfielder, it may be worth the significant loss.

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