The Nationals and Rays are talking about Mike Morse, Danny Espinosa

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The Rays just got James Loney, but ESPN’s Jim Bowden reports that the team is talking to the Nationals about a trade for Mike Morse and Danny Espinosa in exchange for pitching.

Just because Loney is in the fold doesn’t mean this makes zero sense — after all, Loney is actually a downgrade from Carlos Pena if that’s possible, and Morse can play a corner — but Bowden’s ESPN colleague Jayson Stark says that while talks are happening a deal “is not very likely.”

But even if it isn’t it reinforces a couple of notions that will inform other deals at the Winter Meetings: (1) that the Rays are willing to deal starting pitching to fill holes; and (2) that the Nationals are leaning toward dealing Morse and re-signing Adam LaRoche to cover first base rather than merely handing the position to Morse.

The Mets expect Tim Tebow to come back next year

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Mets assistant general manager John Ricco told Newsday today that he expects minor league outfielder Tim Tebow to return for a third season in professional baseball.

Tebow, 31, broke the hamate bone in his right hand while swinging a bat in late July, ending his season. It was a fairly successful season for him all things considered. After being promoted to Double-A Binghamton to start the year he hit .273/.336/.399 with six home runs, a stolen base and a .734 OPS in 298 plate appearances and made the Double-A All-Star team. That’s not the stuff of a top prospect — he strikes out far too much and the power numbers aren’t fantastic given that power would figure to be his strongest tool — but it’s pretty respectable for a guy his age and with his relative lack of baseball experience. As I said back in July, you can believe the Mets’ interest in Tebow is more marketing than baseball, but that does not preclude you from giving the guy a deserved tip of the cap for working hard and sticking it out in the bush leagues.

Assuming he does come back, the Mets are likely to start him at Triple-A Syracuse in the hopes that he’d eventually get to the bigs as a late season callup if the Mets aren’t in contention. Indeed, many believed that was the plan for him this year had he not been injured.