With their trade for Denard Span the Nationals’ outfield is set with Span in center field and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth flanking him in the corners. That would shift Michael Morse from left field to first base and seemingly signal the end of free agent Adam LaRoche’s time in Washington, but general manager Mike Rizzo might have another idea.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spoke to a source who says the Nationals are “definitely shopping Morse a little bit.” If they traded Morse they’d presumably re-sign LaRoche to play first base, although they certainly have plenty of competition for him on the open market right now.
Washington potentially trading Morse isn’t surprising–I wrote about the possibility just last week, and that was before the Span deal. He’s been excellent since becoming a regular for the Nationals in mid-2010, hitting .296 with 64 homers and an .861 OPS in 346 games, but Morse is one season from free agency and Rizzo may not be keen on inking him to a long-term deal at age 31.
If the Nationals can re-sign LaRoche to a two- or three-year deal and swap Morse for some prospects or help elsewhere, that would make a lot of sense. Or if they wanted to save money and get younger the Nationals could deal Morse, not re-sign LaRoche, and turn first base over to 25-year-old Tyler Moore.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.