The Orioles had the right idea. Add a big bat to the middle of the lineup before the deadline for setting playoff rosters. Don’t stand pat while other contenders are hunting for more offense.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette landed Michael Morse on Aug. 30, sending Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Xavier Avery to the Mariners. The Orioles claimed him off waivers and had 48 hours to work out a trade. They did so with a few minutes to spare.
Morse figured to become the regular designated hitter and get some starts in left field. The club’s designated hitters were batting .220 before the trade, and the Orioles were batting .247 against left-handers. Morse made sense as a power-hitter who bats from the right side, and the Orioles were on the hook for approximately $1.25 million of his remaining salary. It wasn’t a huge financial commitment for the pending free agent.
Avery never made it to the majors this season and didn’t figure in their long-term plans. He was batting .237/.312/.312 in 81 games at Norfolk after starting the year at Double-A Bowie.
The Nationals tried to entice the Orioles into trading for Morse at the winter meetings - they wanted pitcher Jake Arrieta - but it didn’t happen. The Orioles were leery of Morse’s injury history and his status as a rental. The two sides talked again before the non-waiver trade deadline. Again, nothing.
Morse missed five weeks this season with a quadriceps injury, and he was in a 3-for-34 slump before changing teams. He collected only three hits in 29 at-bats with the Orioles, none for extra bases, before being shut down with a wrist injury that might require surgery.
Morse never became the regular DH, with manager Buck Showalter limiting him to starts against left-handers. Showalter wasn’t aware of the wrist injury until the final week of the season, and Morse didn’t play after Sept. 22.
The Orioles had the right idea with Morse, but it turned out wrong.
Avery went 6-for-12 with a double, home run and five runs scored in three games with Triple-A Tacoma. He appeared in 32 games with the Orioles last season, batting .223/.305/.340 with six doubles, a triple, one home run, six RBIs and six stolen bases.
Avery seemed to be in a funk in spring training and was one of the first players cut. To his credit, he snapped out of it and earned a promotion to Norfolk, but his stock had fallen.
I was fine with the trade because Morse didn’t come at a high cost. It just didn’t work out, for whatever reason. Maybe the wrist injury drained his power. We may never know the answer.
The Orioles aren’t expected to pursue Morse in free agency, but he could be a bargain. It’s not like he has much leverage after batting .215/.270/.381 with 13 homers and 27 RBIs in 88 games. And the Orioles want someone who can play a few positions rather than clog up the DH spot.
The challenge is figuring out whether you’re getting the 2013 Morse or the guy who hit .303/.360/.550 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs in 146 games with the Nationals in 2011.