With the recent addition of the immensely underrated Doug Fister, the Nats added a pitcher who has been recently named a Cy Young candidate by ESPN’s Mark Simon. Most people will argue that this came at a fairly cheap price considering the swap for a mid-level LHP prospect, a future lefty reliever, and a low ceiling, switch hitting utility man. Yet, Stephen Lombardozzi may be the player the Nats will miss the most in this pivotal 2014 season.
The lack of bench presence in the 2013 campaign crushed the Nats late in games. Chad Tracy finished with a line of .202/.243/.326. Tyler Moore finished with a line of .222/.260/.347. Scott Hairston stumbled to a line of .191/.237/.414. Stephen Lombardozzi, with a line of .259/.278/.338, was far and away the Nats most productive bench player. Yet, this line does not clearly represent the value Lombo had during his time with the Nats. Lombo made starts at 4 different positions, as well as hit semi-effectively from both sides of the plate. His versatility was key for a thin Nats bench that failed to duplicate the results of the successful 2012 “Goon Squad”.
With Nats looking to improve their bench, an addition like the similarly versatile Jayson Nix makes sense. But there is a certain Beast that is available, cheap, and useful to the 2014 Nats.
Michael Morse was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2000 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. He traveled through the minors as a power-hitting 6 foot 4 inch Shortstop. Former White Sox Hitting Coach Greg Walker was quoted saying, “This kid, Morse, the shortstop, is a dynamite talent. He might be the guy when you look back that everyone says, ‘Oh, man.’ He has jaw-dropping talent, and to have that kind of juice at shortstop is something special.” In 2004, Morse was traded to the Mariners in a trade centered around Freddy Garcia. With minimal success at the Major League level with the Mariners, Morse was traded to the Nationals in 2009 for Ryan Langerhans. It was there that Beast Mode realized his full potential finishing with a .303 average, 31 Home Runs, and 95 RBIs in 2011. An injury plagued 2012 season brought his season numbers down and he was traded in the January of 2013 back to the Mariners in a deal where the Nats reacquired A.J. Cole. Morse made his presence known in the first 30 games of the 2013 season, hitting 9 Home Runs in those games, including 4 of those in his first 4 games. Then, numerous injuries again derailed his second stint with the Mariners and he was traded to the O’s on August 30th for speedster Xavier Avery. He hit .103 in 12 games for the O’s and was not re-signed.
With the Nats looking for consistent bench power hitting presence, the return of fan favorite Morse seems logical. He could be had for relatively cheap and could be a steal considering he is only 2 years removed from his incredible 2011 season. If he comes back healthy from his recent wrist surgery, the Nats should take a flier. Morse would be rejuvenated living in a city that he enjoyed and playing for a fan base that revered him. If he could produce at half the level he did in his days starting for the Nats, he would be an upgrade over any Nats bench player during the 2013 season. He could step in and play first on days facing lefties, and could be the DH during interleague play. For others convinced that Tyler Moore will not be successful at the Major League level, Michael Morse provides a possible replacement.
Let the return of Take On Me allow the Nats to finish what they started in that magical 2012 season.