ADDITIONAL NOTE 12:55 p.m.: The Mariners have officially added Taijuan Walker to their 40-man roster, as well as Class AAA outfielder Abraham Almonte, who joins the team in Houston tonight. Almonte fills one of the team’s six outfield spots vacated by Michael Morse.
Michael Morse clearly had no future left in Seattle and now will get to try to build one with the Baltimore Orioles. Morse was traded to Baltimore today for Class AAA left fielder Xavier Avery, 23, a former second-round pick from 2008 who played a handful of games with the Orioles last season. The Orioles had claimed Morse off revocable waivers yesterday, giving the teams 48 hours to work out a deal.
Avery was hitting .237 with a .624 OPS in AAA but has some speed and can also play center.
The Mariners, as we know, have outfield depth issues at all three positions. At first glance, Avery doesn’t seem destined to fill those holes by any great stretch. This seems a lot like the Eric Thames acquisition last summer, minus the power potential.
But in the end, a living, breathing body was about all the Mariners were going to get for Morse. That and saving the remaining $1 million or so in salary still owed him.
The thought process that went into acquiring Morse, for the rather cheap price of backup catcher John Jaso, was a good one. But the results just were not there to be found.
Morse had one of the worst seasons of his career and did not morph into the clubhouse presence or team front man the club hoped it was getting in that three-way trade that brought him here from Washington.
In the end, factors out of Morse’s control also contributed to what was argualy the most disappointing performance by any Mariners player this season. Morse did get hurt a couple of times and was allowed to try to play through the pain and discomfort arguably far longer than he should have been.
Part of that was need on the team’s part. Morse was acquired to help the Mariners stay close to .500 and maybe make a second-half run.
But when the Mariners fell apart early, as they so often do, he was used too often in the outfield corners and his defensive liabilities became an issue. On a team with Franklin Gutierrez in center and Michael Saunders in one corner on a regular basis, the Mariners could have lived with Morse’s sluggish D in the other corner. But only if Morse was hitting like he has in the past.
Instead, his offensive game fell apart. Combined with Gutierrez again missing most of the season to injury and a slumping Saunders playing a center field spot full time he isn’t all that suited for — and Raul Ibanez forced into the other outfield corner more regularly than anticipated — the outfied defense became a serious liability with Morse’s shortcomings now front and center.
Without even his offensive prowess to offset some of that, the acquisition of Morse became a disaster.
As written here a month ago, it made sense for the Mariners to trade Morse by the July 31 deadline. When the team failed to do that, this became the next best option. The Mariners need the outfield space, Morse wasn’t coming back here and it’s doubtful the Mariners wanted him back.
Again, the cost of Jaso hardly hurts. A plattoon backup catcher with defensive liabilities wasn’t what was going to take the Mariners from sub-.500 status to a winning ballclub — especially with other catchers blocking his way. Three years of control for a guy with, at best, two months of playing time ahead of him in Seattle is just something nice to show off on paper. In reality, the extra years of club control meant little from a practical perspective.
In other words, this was a worthy risk for Jack Zduriencik to take with Morse. It just didn’t work out. And for any GM, when push comes to shove, you have to able to show that more things have worked out than failed.
In Zduriencik’s case, this trade gone bad won’t sink him, as there is little cost to the franchise beyond its part played in another lost season. Instead, it’s his cumulative body of work that will be looked at. And no, this certainly won’t help matters any on that front.