Morse, Nats both benefited from slugger’s time in D.C. (programming update)

Michael Morse joined the Nationals organization on June 28, 2009, coming over from the Mariners in return for outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

At the time, Morse had just 300 major league at-bats under his belt, having struck out 65 times and had hit just three home runs and in his brief big league tenure.

He was a 27-year-old without a set position, a guy who broke into the major leagues as a shortstop despite the fact that he was 6-foot-5 and didn’t have great quickness.

Morse leaves the Nationals an established middle-of-the-order bat, a serviceable left fielder and first baseman who was beloved by teammates and fans alike and who holds the record for the longest home run in Nationals Park history.

That Morse-for-Langerhans deal might not have turned many heads back in the summer of 2009. But yesterday’s trade, which sent Morse back to the Mariners in a three-team deal that netted the Nats pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen and a player to be named, is one that has made headlines, largely because of the strides Morse made while in D.C.

Morse saw his at-bats, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all rise in his first three years with the Nationals.

He saw action in 32 games with the Nats after the trade in 2009, hitting .250 with three home runs in 52 at-bats. His workload increased in 2010, and Morse’s power stroke started to settle in, as well, as he mashed 15 home runs and had a .870 OPS in just 266 at-bats.

We all remember 2011 as Morse’s coming out party. The slugger batted .303, crushed 31 homers, drove in 95 runs and posted a ridiculous .910 OPS, leading the Nationals in all four categories. He even earned a few Most Valuable Player votes that season, finishing 19th in the voting despite playing for a team that finished a game under .500.

The lat injury derailed Morse’s 2012 campaign, and hand and wrist ailments down the stretch limited his effectiveness a bit. Then, once the Nationals acquired center fielder Denard Span and re-signed first baseman Adam LaRoche this offseason, it became clear there was no longer a spot for Morse in the Nats’ everyday lineup.

General manager Mike Rizzo could have kept Morse as one of the most talented insurance policies in the majors, an expensive yet dangerous bat off the bench. But Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson didn’t want to see Morse rot riding the pine, especially not during the 30-year-old’s contract year.

So Rizzo searched for a deal that could not only net the Nationals the minor league prospects they needed to replenish their system but also give Morse a new home where he could be utilized properly. Morse now returns to Seattle where he’ll be the fixture of the Mariners’ lineup and will get a chance to turn around the organization which gave him his start in the big leagues.

Morse clearly loved his time in the nation’s capital. He was a goofy, fun-loving presence in the clubhouse. He was respected by teammates, seemed to thoroughly enjoy interacting with Nats fans and will forever be remembered as the guy sprinting around the warning track spraying fans with champagne after the Nationals clinched their first division title.

Morse took to Twitter last night, sending a series of tweets thanking his fans and the Nationals organization.

“To all my D.C. Fans, I’m forever grateful for the love and support you have shown me from day 1 ... I will always have a spot for you and this incredible franchise in my heart. ... I would like to thank the Lerners and Mike Rizzo for giving me the opportunity to play everyday. ... We made magic last year and I will never forget the Natitude! I will miss my teammates and the moments we’ve shared. ... It has been an awesome 4 years, and now it’s on to the next chapter. D.C., it has been a fun ride ....Always Beastmode”

The Nationals have come a long way since Morse first came over in June 2009, and Morse has come a long way, too. The two parties seemed to help each other in the last three-plus years. Morse evolved into one of the more dangerous hitters in the majors, and partly thanks to his performance, the Nats evolved into a World Series contender, as well.

Update: The Nationals have announced they will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. to discuss the Morse trade and introduce their “latest pitching acquisition.” We can assume that will be Rafael Soriano.

You can watch the press conference live on MASN.

Update II: The press conference has been pushed back to 4:30 p.m. We should be good to go around then.

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