Nationals send Morse to A’s in four-player swap

The Washington Nationals today acquired right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole, right-handed pitcher Blake Treinen and a player to be named in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse. Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Cole was originally selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft before being dealt to the A’s as part of the December 2011 trade that brought Gio Gonzalez to Washington.

Pitching for Single-A Stockton (California League) and Single-A Burlington (Midwest League), Cole combined to go 6-10 with a 3.70 ERA in 27 starts in his lone season in Oakland’s chain. He recorded strong strikeout (9.0 per 9.0 innings) and walk (2.0 per 9.0 innings) rates in ‘12 while ranking fourth and fifth among A’s farmhands in ERA and strikeouts (133), respectively.

Cole was recently rated by Baseball America as Oakland’s No. 3 prospect - and top pitching prospect - entering 2013. He had been ranked by the same publication as the Nationals’ No. 4 overall prospect (and top pitching prospect) in both 2011 and ‘12. Cole was also listed as the No. 33 overall prospect in baseball last season by ESPN’s Keith Law.

The 21 year-old Cole is 10-17 with a 3.82 ERA in 48 games/45 starts in three professional seasons, during which he has posted a stellar 4.5/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Treinen, 24, was the Athletics’ seventh-round selection in 2011. He went 7-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 24 games/15 starts last season for Stockton in the offensively-charged California League. In two seasons in the A’s system, Treinen has fanned 8.7 and walked just 2.1 batters per 9.0 innings en route to a 4.13 ERA in 45 games/15 starts.

In four seasons with the Nationals, the 30 year-old Morse hit .294 with 67 homers and 208 RBI in 378 games.