Nationals agree to contracts with Slaten, Morse (updated)

The Nationals agreed to contracts with reliever Doug Slaten and outfielder Michael Morse today, the team announced. The deal means the Nationals will avoid salary arbitration with both players.

According to The Associated Press, Slaten will earn $695,000 and can get another $17,500 in performance bonuses - $5,000 for 60 games and $12,500 for 70 games. Morse gets $1.05 million with the opportunity for $300,00 in performance bonuses tied to plate appearances - $50,000 for 300, $75,000 each for 350 and 400, and $100,000 for 450. Slaten was paid $435,000 in 2010, while Morse made $410,000.

Slaten was tough against lefties last year, holding them to a .151 average and .385 OPS. He was significantly less effective against righties (.295/.409/.436), but he’ll likely get a chance to carve out a bigger role for himself than as just a straight lefty specialist.

Morse had an eye-opening 2010, hitting 15 homers in just 98 games, while posting an .870 slugging percentage. He started the year as a bench player, but was so successful in that role he was given more playing time toward the end of the year, especially after Josh Willingham injured his knee. He’ll likely platoon with Roger Bernadina in left field in 2011.

The Nationals have just one arbitration-eligible players left: pitcher Tom Gorzelanny, who they acquired yesterday. Players and teams must exchange salary information today in preparation for arbitration hearings, so a flurry of deals are happening around the game today to avoid the arbitration process. A contract for either Gorzelanny could come today, too - though the former would require the Nationals to confirm they’ve made a trade for him.

UPDATE at 2:30 p.m.: Several outlets are reporting that Gorzelanny has agreed to a $2.1 million contract with the Cubs. If so, the Nats would have no arbitration-eligible players.