Morse traded to Orioles for outfield prospect

MorseClifford

With his playing time in Seattle diminishing in the final weeks of an injury-plagued season, outfielder Michael Morse was traded to the Orioles on Friday for outfielder Xavier Avery.

Avery, 23, hit .223 in 32 games for the Orioles in 2012, but has spent this entire season in the Minors. He is a speedster drafted in the second round out of high school in 2008 who is currently rated the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect by MLB.com.

Avery has batted .259 with 29 stolen bases in 120 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season in the Orioles’ system. He will be assigned to Triple-A Tacoma by the Mariners.

The Orioles claimed Morse off waivers on Wednesday, then finalized a deal with Seattle right as the waiver deadline expired Friday.

Morse hit .226 with 13 home runs and 27 RBIs in 76 games for Seattle while playing mostly right field. The Orioles are looking to beef up their designated hitter options on a club that is 3 ½ games out of a Wild-Card playoff berth going into Friday’s games.

Morse, 31, will be a free agent at the end of this season and is still owed about $1.1 million on this year’s $6.75 million contract. He is a career .284 hitter with 83 homers and 272 RBIs in 561 games with the Mariners and Nationals.

The Mariners needed to move an outfielder to create a spot on their 25-man roster for pitcher Taijuan Walker, who will make his Major League debut Friday night against the Astros. The club released veteran right-hander Aaron Harang on Monday, but temporarily filled his roster spot by activating outfielder Franklin Gutierrez off the disabled list.

That left them with six outfielders and Morse became the odd-man out after struggling at the plate in recent weeks.

Morse was acquired from the Nationals in a three-team trade in January in which the Seattle sent catcher John Jaso to the A’s.

The Mariners hoped the big slugger could add some needed pop to their lineup after hitting 49 home runs with 157 RBIs over the previous two years with the Nats. And, indeed, he had a big Spring Training as he led the Cactus League with a Mariners record nine home runs in 20 games and then opened the year with six home runs in the first 10 regular-season games.

But in that 10th game on April 11, Morse broke the little finger on his right hand when he was hit by a pitch by Rangers reliever Tanner Scheppers. And while he sat out just three games, the finger continued to bother him and he didn’t come back with the same kind of production, then ran into further health problems when he strained his right hamstring running the bases in late May.

Morse tried to play through that issue before finally going on the disabled list for five weeks from June 21 to July 30.  But since returning from the DL, he’s batted just .167 (12-for-72) with two home runs and four RBIs with 20 strikeouts in 18 games.

After hitting .293 with six homers and nine RBIs in the season’s first 10 games, Morse wound up hitting .215 with just seven more homers and 18 RBIs in his final 66 games with Seattle after breaking his finger.

The Mariners’ outfield now consists of Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Raul Ibanez, Endy Chavez and Gutierrez, while other players can be brought up from the Minor Leagues on Sunday when rosters can be expanded in September.

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