Rizzo talks Morse, LaRoche, search for an “impactful” starter (updated)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Speaking with reporters about half an hour ago in his suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said that he’s gotten “a lot” of interest in left fielder/first baseman Michael Morse.

“He’s drawn interest,” Rizzo said. “We’ve fielded calls for him. We’ve not made one call about him. We’ve fielded a lot of calls, and you can see the reason why. He’s a middle-of-the-lineup hitter that puts up big numbers. He hits for average and for power.”

In other words, the Nationals are listening, but they’re not actively shopping Morse.

“We’re definitely not shopping (him),” Rizzo said. “We’ve never shopped him. We’re accepting some phone calls on him and if there’s a way to improve the ballclub by trading him, we’ll do so. But he’s a tough guy to trade because he’s a very impactful player.”

In a video interview with MASNsports.com, Rizzo said that he has not talked with the Orioles so far during the meetings. There had been some buzz that the Orioles could be in play for Morse.

Morse is set to make $6.75 million in 2013. He hit 30 home runs and had 95 RBIs in 2011, and is viewed as one of the top power-hitting bats available on the trade market.

Obviously, the Morse situation goes somewhat hand-in-hand with the Nationals’ attempts to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Rizzo said there’s “nothing new” on the LaRoche front. Essentially, the Nats are waiting as LaRoche surveys the market to see if he’ll be able to find an attractive three-year deal out there.

The Nationals are remaining patient with LaRoche, but Rizzo said they might need to get a decision from the 33-year-old first baseman at some point in the somewhat near future.

“I don’t think there’s any urgency to set a deadline or a specific time period that we have to get it done, but needless to say, this decision is going to impact some other decisions we make,” Rizzo said. “So sooner rather than later is our preference, but we’re not going to pressure Adam into anything that he’s not comfortable doing.”

The Nats could decide to trade Morse before a LaRoche deal is in place, Rizzo said. The timing isn’t all that important “because we have such depth at the position.”

Tyler Moore is included in that depth, and Rizzo said that he would be OK with a scenario which saw Moore as the Nationals’ starting first baseman in 2013.

Rizzo said he doesn’t see the LaRoche talks impacting his search for a starting pitcher, saying the two are “independent.” If the Nationals end up spending to bring LaRoche back, that won’t rule them out for one of the top free agent starters on the market.

The Nats have talked with teams about various trades, but they’re also looking at a “big list” of free agent starters, according to Rizzo.

They won’t look specifically for a veteran hurler, a hard-thrower or a proven innings-eater. Instead, the Nats will base their decision on upside.

“I just think the most impactful guy that we can get is always what we’re trying to do,” Rizzo said.

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