Mariners’ Morse trade a blessing in disguise
by Art Thiel
So long, "Safeco Field"?
Certainly they are not the best team. But the Seattle Mariners may be the greenest team. Their passion for recycling outdoes the most neurotic Seattle tree huggers.
Some Seattle connection apparently is an important element in getting serviceable major league baseball players to play here. They have to have prior knowledge that coming to Seattle will not leave them susceptible to cooties, head lice, bed bugs or whatever it is that makes them go all Justin Upton.
You may recall that Upton, a two-time All-Star outfielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks, had veto rights over a trade to the Mariners. He exercised that right last week, and the story of the aborted deal went national. Why the Mariners put so much energy into an enterprise easily thwarted by the player was not made clear, nor was Upton quoted as saying why he vetoed the trade. So we are free to speculate.
I'm voting for cooties. And every Mariners fan should pet a cootie today in gratitude.
The Mariners reportedly were ready to send four quality players to the Diamondbacks: Major league relief pitchers Charlie Furbush and Steven Pryor, and two minor leaguers, shortstop Nick Franklin and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, who were considered among the top five prospects in the organization.
This sort of deal is known among the dwindling knot of Mariners fans as an "adamjones," a technical measurement of baseball radioactivity that calculates the blast radius within which all baseball hope dies. The tool was developed following the trade of outfielder Adam Jones and four others for oft-troubled pitcher Erik Bedard. The five-year anniversary of the trade comes up on Feb. 8, so you may want to order flowers for the professional careers of GM Bill Bavasi, manager John McLaren and others who were consumed in the 101-loss season that followed.
The attempt to acquire Upton, a good but not great player, with similar treasure indicated the degree of desperation in the front office, which is only right since the club has lost more fans over the last decade than any major professional sports team. But the idea of such a trade is to make the team better, not worse.
The imbalance of the trade suggested that the five-year absence of offense made the Mariners management street-rat crazy. Upton's veto saved them from themselves.
Perhaps that is why the re-acquisition of Morse, by contrast, seems almost harmless. In the great Mariners tradition, Morse became a serviceable player after he left Seattle. Traded by GM Jack Zduriencik in 2009 when Morse was still a Class AAA hitter without a position, Morse became a pivotal part of a lineup that turned a franchise as woebegone as the Mariners into a World Series contender. Over the past three seasons, Morse had an .861 OPS and 64 home runs, including 31 in his breakout 2011 season.
He'll be 31 in March, still prime time for most hitters, and claims to be recovered from injuries that forced him to miss more than 50 games in 2012.
"I love it out there and I always felt like I had unfinished-business kind of feelings in Seattle," Morse said. "That I never got to prove myself completely of what kind of player I could be."
So the Florida native feels the old-timey pull of Seattle.
The cost was catcher John Jaso, who, with a .276 average and 10 home runs in his single Seattle season, unexpectedly turned into the Mariners' most reliable hitter, which is another world's-tallest-midget joke. As with his platoon partner, Jesus Montero, Jaso was not a good defensive catcher. Zduriencik is already on record as in pursuit of veteran temp help at the position, but it also signals the green-lighting of Mike Zunino, the No. 1 draft choice a year ago who tore up the minors last summer and is seen by some as major league ready as soon as this summer.
As John Hickey explained here, the Mariners now have an overload of DH/1B/corner outfield types. But that would seem to be less of a concern that the more recent trend of having no one at all to play at the MLB level. That's part of how a team gets to finish last in a four-team division in seven of the previous nine years.
So in the great tradition of multi-timers Ken Griffey Jr., Norm Charlton, Mike Blowers, Arthur Rhodes and others, the return of Morse is OK. Another stepping stone to the elusive, electric .500 season.