Mariners get prospect Avery from O's for Morse
Outfielder was ranked as 10th-best Minor Leaguer in Baltimore system
HOUSTON -- With his playing time in Seattle diminishing in the final weeks of an injury-plagued season, outfielder Michael Morse was traded to Baltimore on Friday for outfielder Xavier Avery.
"I think injuries were the biggest part of it," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "He got off to the good start for the first couple weeks, then it was just injury after injury, whether it be with the hand or the leg, which took quite a while. Then he just struggled to get on track after that. He just wasn't able to contribute like we hoped he would."
Avery, 23, hit .223 in 32 games for the Orioles in 2012, but he has spent this entire season in the Minors. Avery is a speedster who was drafted in the second round out of high school in 2008, and he was rated as the O's No. 10 prospect by MLB.com.
"It's a tribute to our scouting and player development that we developed a player to the point that we could get Michael back for him," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a good spot for him. I'm happy for Xavier. He's really come on here at the end and he did well in Double-A this year. I'm sure they saw him good the last couple of weeks. He fits them good."
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.
Prospect acquired by Mariners
- Xavier Avery, OF: Avery's athleticism helped make him a Georgia football recruit and a second-round pick of the Orioles coming out of high school in 2008. He chose to sign with Baltimore and has been trying to convert his raw tools to on-field performance. Avery made his Major League debut in 2012, hitting .223 in 32 games, but returned to the Minor Leagues this year. He hit .259 with a .340 on-base percentage between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. Avery's speed is his best tool, which helps make him a solid defender. He can play all three outfield positions, profiling best in center field. Avery's bat is the biggest question about his game. How well it develops will determine if he is a fourth outfielder or an everyday player in the Major Leagues.
-- Teddy Cahill
The O's 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 1/2 games out of an American League 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 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, leading the Cactus League with a Mariners record nine home runs in 20 games. He 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 Morse sat out just three games, the finger continued to bother him and he didn't come back with the same kind of production. Morse then ran into further health problems when he strained his right hamstring while 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, four RBIs and 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, Gutierrez and newly promoted Abraham Almonte, while other players can be brought up from the Minor Leagues on Sunday, when rosters can be expanded in September.