Mariners acquire Morse for Jaso in 3-way deal

St Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals - Game FiveThe Mariners continued their offseason search for offensive upgrades by acquiring Nationals outfielder/first baseman Mike Morse on Wednesday in a three-way deal that sent catcher John Jaso to the A’s, MLB.com has learned.

Oakland traded three prospects to the Nats to complete the deal. One of those is right-hander A.J. Cole, 21, who was reacquired by the Nationals after being dealt to Oakland in last offseason’s Gio Gonzalez trade.

Morse, 30, gives Seattle another middle-of-the-order bat as he returns to the Mariners after three and a half seasons with the Nationals.

Morse hit .298 and averaged 24.5 home runs and 78.5 RBIs the last two years despite missing the first 60 games last year with a back injury. He’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $6.75 million in 2013.

Jaso, 29, figured to be the Mariners’ backup catcher behind Jesus Montero this coming season after hitting .276 with 10 home runs and 50 RBIs in 108 games last year.

Seattle obviously will be in the market to add another backstop, with Montero now the only catcher on the 40-man roster. The club does have 2012 first-round Draft pick Mike Zunino waiting in the wings, but figures to also pursue a veteran as well.

Kelly Schopach, Yorvit Torrealba and Ronny Paulino are among the free-agent catchers still available.

Jaso was one of four Mariners who filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday. He is in his first season of arbitration eligibility and will be under the A’s team control for three years after earning $495,000 in 2012.

The Mariners have now added first baseman/designated Kendrys Morales, infielder Robert Andino and outfielders Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Morse this offseason.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had been pushing to acquire D-backs outfielder Justin Upton until that deal fell through when Upton blocked a trade to Seattle last week .

Morse joins a Mariners outfield competition that now includes Michael Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Carlos Peguero, Ibanez and Bay.

Morse can play first base as well as the corner outfield, though he made 92 of his 101 starts in the outfield last season and the other nine at DH, while playing just five innings of first base.

Seattle has Morales, Justin Smoak and Mike Carp at first base.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Morse came up in the Mariners organization as a shortstop after being acquired from the White Sox in 2004. He played 107 games for Seattle from 2005-08, though he was limited to five games his final season after tearing a labrum on a diving catch attempt in the outfield.

Morse was playing for Triple-A Tacoma in ’09 when he was traded to the Nationals for outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

He finally started seeing significant playing time in 2010 with the Nats and hit .289 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in 266 at-bats. The following year he posted a career-high 31 home runs and 95 RBIs while hitting .303 in 522 at-bats, while ranking fourth in the National League in slugging percentage (.550) behind Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder.

A strained back muscle caused Morse to miss the first two months last season, but he came on to hit .291 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 406 at-bats.

He became expendable for the Nationals when they acquired Denard Span from the Twins this offseason to team with Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield, then re-signed free agent Adam LaRoche to play first base two weeks ago.

In his eight years in the Majors, Morse has put up a .295/.347/.492 line with 100 home runs and 368 RBIs.

Jaso, who was acquired by Seattle for reliever Josh Lueke a year ago, is a career .255/.359/.395 hitter with 20 home runs and 121 RBIs in four seasons. He caught Felix Hernandez’s perfect game and also provided a number of clutch hits for the Mariners last season with three walkoff RBIs while ranking second in the AL with his .378 batting average with runners in scoring position.

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