Colorado interested in Morse, Hammel
Outfielder coming off wrist surgery; former Rox righty battled elbow pain in 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Outfielder Michael Morse, who hit 31 home runs for the Nationals in 2011 and 13 for the Mariners last season while battling injuries and underwent postseason left wrist surgery, has emerged as a target in the Rockies' search for a right-handed bat.
The Rockies also have interest in bringing back right-handed pitcher Jason Hammel, who went 27-30 with a 4.63 ERA for the club from 2009-11 and spent the last two seasons with the Orioles, as part of the search for rotation help. The Rockies have discussed with the Athletics the possibility of trading for left-hander Brett Anderson. But talks hit a snag because of questions about the health of Anderson's right foot stemming from a stress fracture he suffered last season -- although he finished last season on the mound and appeared in the postseason.
All of the scenarios, which were backed by Major League sources, suggest the Rockies were busy on the first day of the Winter Meetings working through various possibilities using trades and/or free agency for filling their holes, which not only include right-handed hitting and starting pitching, but late-innings right-handed relief as well.
Before the Winter Meetings, the Rockies added a closer in righty LaTroy Hawkins, a first baseman in Justin Morneau (whose two-year agreement is expected to become official this week), and young depth in right-hander Jordan Lyles and center fielder Brandon Barnes from the Astros in exchange for center fielder Dexter Fowler.
According to the New York Daily News, the Rockies were becoming "more serious" about Morse, who turns 32 on March 22. The paper also reported that the Giants, Marlins and Rangers have interest. A Major League source confirmed that the Rockies have interest.
For now, the left-field position is open for competition between a pair of less-experienced left-handed hitters, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, both of whom performed well when given a shot in the Rockies' injury-depleted outfield last season.
Morse began 2013 with the Mariners and knocked six home runs in the season's first nine games, but suffered a non-displaced fracture of his right pinkie finger when hit by a pitch from the Rangers' Tanner Scheppers on April 11. He returned after three games but struggled offensively and eventually suffered a right quadriceps strain in late May and tried to play through it for the better part of a month.
Although his batting average dipped to .226, the Orioles traded for Morse on Aug. 30. Morse hit .103 in 30 plate appearances over 12 games for the Orioles. After the season, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to shave down a bone outgrowth in his left wrist. The issue bothered him for months, as evidenced by his .165 batting average after June 1.
If Morse is signed, there still could be playing time for Blackmon or Dickerson, both of whom are considered stronger defensively than Morse.
Various reports have the Rockies pursuing several other right-handed hitters. Outfielder Corey Hart, who missed last season with a knee injury, is a possibility, although Hart was scheduled to meet with his old team, the Brewers, on Monday, but told MLB Network Radio recently that the Rockies were among the teams to express interest. The Denver Post reported that the Rockies have looked at veterans Michael Young and Raul Ibanez.
Hammel, 31, has repeatedly credited Rockies pitching coach Jim Wright with helping him improve his mental toughness. He went 8-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 17 first-half starts in 2012 but suffered a right knee injury in July and made just three second-half starts. He had surgery to repair cartilage in the knee.
Last season, Hammel earned the Opening Day start but was beset by right elbow pain. He managed to go 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA in 26 appearances (23 starts), during which he finished with 96 strikeouts against 48 walks.
The Orioles have shown interest in re-signing him, and the Indians are believed to be interested.
In addition to Anderson and Hammel, the Rockies have been linked with a pair of veteran free agents, lefty Paul Maholm and righty Bartolo Colon, each with a history of forcing ground balls. But Colon is believed to command a high salary, and the Mets, Orioles, Mariners and Blue Jays were linked to him in various reports Monday.