Could Nats' Signing Of LaRoche Clear Way For O's Deal?

Posted on January 08, 2013

By Stan "The Fan" Charles

I certainly am not a general manager for either the Nationals or the Orioles (I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night … does that count?), but I see a possible logjam about to be cleared up. The Nats ended up winning their blink-fest with first baseman Adam LaRoche, as the free agent apparently re-signed for two years to play in Washington, D.C.

The fact the Nats have their No. 1 first sacker secured could lead them to look up the road to Baltimore in order to solve their one remaining roster need: a left-handed reliever. Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, loves having multiple left-handed bullpen options, and he may have one extra in Troy Patton. What makes this a perfect fit is the Nats now possess a solid right-handed hitter with some pop in Michael Morse, who may be viewed as surplus now that LaRoche is signed.

Though Morse has had a couple of solid seasons, he really is a hitter only. During the 2010 season, Morse struck 15 home runs, drove in 41 runs and posted a .289 average. After that, in 2011, Morse bopped 31 long balls, knocked in 95 runs and batted .303. After missing a large chunk of 2012 battling back issues, Morse hit 18 homers, knocked in 62 runs and batted .291.

He is 30 years old and fits much better with an American League club, where he can DH often. His salary this year is set at $6.75 million, and he can be a free agent after the 2013 season.

Patton, two years younger than Morse, is hardly an established arm, but the lefty would fill in for Washington's recently departed left-handed reliever Sean Burnett, who signed as a free agent with the Angels.

Patton, originally acquired from the Astros as part of the Miguel Tejada trade in 2007, missed the 2008 season with a torn labrum. It really wasn't until the 2011 season that Patton was able to establish himself as a major league-ready arm, albeit out of manager Buck Showalter's bullpen.

In 2011, Patton got into 30 games and pitched to a 3.00 ERA and held opponents to a .223 batting average. He followed up the promise of  '11 with an even stronger 2012, during which he tossed 55.2 innings and had an ERA of 2.43, held opponents to a .215 batting average and had a WHIP of 1.02.

What's more, when comparing apples to oranges, the Nats would love Patton's price tag, as he is still arbitration eligible and stands to probably make between $1 million and $1.2 million this coming season. He is not eligible for free agency until 2017.

Although those facts may be hard to swallow for Duquette, the presence of both Brian Matusz and Tsuyoshi Wada could make Patton expendable.

The one big question mark hovering over a possible Orioles-Nationals deal could be the owners of the two teams. They are currently embroiled in a TV rights dispute about the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Would the two general managers involved, Duquette and Mike Rizzo, have to buck their bosses to make this logical trade a reality?

Posted Jan. 8, 2013

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