With LaRoche returning to Nationals, is Morse back in play for Orioles?

The Orioles expressed mild interest in Nationals first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse during the Winter Meetings, according to industry sources. They weren’t in serious pursuit of a trade, but they hung on the peripheral, waiting on whether their beltway rivals re-signed free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Well, LaRoche is staying with the Nationals, according to various reports. He’s agreed to a two-year deal that’s been on the table all winter, his market severely impacted by the draft compensation attached to his signing by an outside organization.

The Orioles weren’t going to give him three years. No teams were willing to make that commitment. And the Orioles weren’t keen on surrendering their first-round pick.

Morse, 30, will have plenty of suitors, and the Orioles’ interest figures to intensify. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is still looking for a bat for the middle of the order. Morse batted .303/.360/.550 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs in 2011, and he hit 18 homers in 102 games last year. He can play first base and the outfield.

Seems like a logical fit.

It gets better. The Nationals are seeking a left-handed reliever, and the Orioles can dangle Brian Matusz or Troy Patton as part of a package. However, Morse can become a free agent after the 2013 season, so the Orioles would need to negotiate an extension or reduce what they’re willing to give up for a potential one-year rental.

The Mariners, Yankees, Rangers and Rays can be counted among the teams with interest in Morse, who will make $6.75 million this year. It seems doubtful that the Nats would trade him within the division, which excludes the Mets and Phillies.

Earlier today, Morse tweeted, “Hey everyone, going silent for a while”

Guess he doesn’t want to be bombarded with requests for updates.

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