(Dude can even hit without a bat. Courtesy of the AP)
Justin Upton he ain't, but with the news coming yesterday that the Nationals had re-signed Adam LaRoche to a 2-year deal, Michael Morse suddenly became very available and the trade winds are already blowing strong connecting the Yankees to him. Cash is still on the hunt for more right-handed power, with Matt Diaz not fitting the description and Russ Canzler's ability yet to be determined, and Morse would be a serious upgrade over both of them. He would cost the Yankees more in return than just money, but it's not like the Yankees are short on trade chips this offseason. Morse would be a great piece to add to the middle-to-bottom third of the lineup and would give Joe more flexibility to move guys around if he wanted to play the L/R matchup game. This is a trade that needs to happen.
Morse is a 30-year-old late bloomer, turning 31 in late March of this year. He never got much run when he first came up with Seattle, and took a few years to work himself into the everyday lineup in Washington, but once he was in he showed what he was capable of. Morse had a career year in 2011, hitting .303/.360/.550 (.390 wOBA) with 31 HR, and despite struggling with various injuries in 2012 he still managed to post a .340 wOBA and pop 18 homers. He doesn't walk much (just 3.7% in 2012), and strikes out a little more than you'd like to see, but the Ks have trended in the right direction recently and Morse still has a .295/.347/.492 career slash line, so he's making the most out of his contact.
What makes Morse such a great fit for the Yankees is that not only is he a right-handed power bat, but he's a right-handed power bat who does most of his damage hitting to right field. His spray chart for 2012 shows 27 hits to left, 46 to center, and 45 to right, and his 1.387 OPS and 273 wRC+ to right field far exceeded anything he did hitting the ball up the middle or pulling it. What makes Derek Jeter such a great hitter at his age is his continued ability to go the other way with consistency, and what made Yankee fans drool over Jesus Montero was his ability to do it with power. Morse's production combines both factors and he could really clean up hitting to right in the new Stadium. For what it's worth, Morse barely has a L/R platoon split too. The guy can hit.
What he can't do is field, and therein lies the only problem with bringing Morse in. He has the ability to play the outfield corners and first base, but would be a serious defensive downgrade over the players already in those positions when put into the lineup. There are DH at-bats that need to be soaked up while A-Rod is out, though, so that's an option to maximize Morse's strengths. And if the Yankees do add him he's going to act as the 4th outfielder anyway, so he'd really only be playing there on days when Joe wanted to rest or play matchups with any of his lefty outfielders. And there's nothing that says Joe couldn't turn back around and bring a Brett Gardner or an Ichiro in for Morse as a late-game defensive replacement.
In terms of trade pieces, the Yankees and Nationals match up pretty well. The Nats are reported to be looking for left-handed relief help and starting pitching depth, and a quick glance at their current roster shows they could use some middle infield depth as well. If it's something they are or were at one time considering, this would be the perfect chance for the Yanks to move Boone Logan, and someone like Adam Warren or Brett Marshall could be the second piece. Washington may want more, but with Morse on the last year of a contract ($6.75 mil in 2013) and the Nats actively looking to move him their bargaining power isn't all that high. A Logan-Warren haul could get it done and would also serve to open up a 40-man roster spot.
Morse isn't the perfect solution to the Yankees' lineup problems, but he would be a hell of an addition. Right-handedness, opposite field power, some defensive flexibility, and insurance against more injuries to the big bats in the lineup. He would be playing a bench role in New York, even more when A-Rod gets back, and that might not sit well with him, but Morse won't have much of a say if Washington decides to make a deal with the Yanks. I think he'd be a good fit in the lineup and the clubhouse, and I'd really like to see the Yankees make a push for him rather than continue to pick scraps.