When the Nationals re-signed Adam LaRoche, it was a foregone conclusion that Mike Morse would be traded. Because Morse's best NL position is at first base, he wouldn't get much playing time in Washington. The Indians were a marginal fit, as even with all the signings of Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher, there was room in the everyday lineup for him at DH. But I thought that because Morse was just a year away from free agency, it wasn't really worth it to trade value for him.
Well, the Seattle Mariners, who were in the same boat as the Indians at the beginning of the off-season as far contention in concerned, just acquired (or in this case re-acquired him) at the expense of John Jaso, who will be going to Oakland to boot.
Here's the particulars of the deal:
Seattle gets: 1B/OF Mike Morse (who they had from 2005-2008)
Oakland gets: C/1B John Jaso
Washington gets: RHP A.J. Cole, RHP Blake Treinen, PTBNL
From a service time perspective, Morse is a free agent at the end of the season, Jaso is arbitration-eligible but under team control for three more seasons, and neither of the players Washington received has played in the majors.
From Washington's perspective, they had no need for Morse, and no holes to fill at the major-league level, so they got a high-upside prospect in Cole (who they traded to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez deal, so that worked out well). Cole pitched in A-/A+ in 2012, and he's probably ticketed back to High-A in 2013, so he's at best a couple years away, but the Nationals can afford to be patient with their current major-league rotation.
From Oakland's perspective, they got a very nice bat to plug into a lineup that still needs some thump. Jaso hit .276/.394/.456 last season, which because his home park equaled out to a 144 OPS+. He can catch, or be a DH, or do a little of both. He has little defensive value, but even as a part-time DH he's a valuable player. Trading Cole back to Washington is steep if you look at the upside the young prospect, but by the time Jaso reaches free agency (after the 2015 season), Cole might not be the majors yet.
From Seattle's perspective...honestly I don't know what they're doing here. I guess acquiring Morse is something that in isolation the Mariners should be doing, but if you look at their other acquisitions (Raul Ibanez, Kendry Morales, Jason Bay) Morse is kind of the same type of player; offense-first, with little or no defensive value. Plus they already have Jesus Montero, who probably should be DHing a couple times a week. That may be why they deemed John Jaso expendable, but I also think Jason has the better long-term value then Ibanez (obviously), Bay, and Morales, all of whom are only signed through this season.
Since this is an Indians blog, I'll try to finish up with an Indians reference. The Mariners were major players in the Nick Swisher bidding, and probably were interested in Mark Reynolds. If the roles were reversed, and Seattle had signed Reynolds and Swisher, and the Indians had acquired Ibanez/Bay/Morales, I'd be downright depressed about the 2013 season. Not that Reynolds and Swisher will make the Indians contenders, but given the other possibilities, Cleveland's offseason looks pretty darn good.