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The Rays Tank: Mike Morse rumors heat up

Could the Rays be after the $7-million dollar slugger?

Mike Ehrmann

The biggest news of the day for Tampa Bay Rays fans is that the Washington Nationals re-signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal. You might be wondering how a national league 1B signing is big news for the Rays... Simple, LaRoche reuniting with the Nats immediately makes slugging 1B/OF Michael Morse available in a trade.

Morse, 30, is under contract for $7-million for the 2013 season but will become a free agent after that. The Nationals had been rumored to be interested in moving Morse for a bullpen piece during the Winter Meetings, but nothing came of it. The return of LaRoche has made Morse on the block an almost certainty.

It didn't take long for the rumors to start up again today, with Ken Rosenthal reporting that as many as seven teams may be in on Morse, including the Rays but with also the Yankees, Mariners, Indians, Orioles, Rangers, Phillies and Mets also being in on the National's slugger.

Morse is exactly the bat the Rays need. In 2011, Morse hit 31 home runs while posting a .390 wOBA but an injury plagued 2012 led to a down year albeit still with 18 dingers in 430 PA. Morse does suffer from an aversion to the free pass, drawing walks in just 3% of his PA in 2012 while owning a career BB% of 5.9%. He also has a tendency to strike-out and can clog up the bases. However, his power potential is something that the Rays are always after. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs looked at some comps for Morse and came up with an intriguing list, including Matt Holliday, Derek Jeter and Michael Young.

Rosenthal later reported that Morse strongly opposes the idea of DHing and would prefer to play the field, which may be of concern to the Rays but his defense isn't exactly why teams are interested in him. The Rays may have the pieces, but with many other teams involved the price for a one year player could be steep. The Nationals were rumored to be looking for a package including a left-handed reliever and the Rays may be in a position to move either Alex Torres or Ceasar Ramos if that is the case.

We will see how it all plays out