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Ryan Langerhans/Mike Morse Reflections

Ryan Langerhans is gone now. He's been traded to the Diamondbacks for cash considerations, which is the nice and complicated way of saying he's been sold like goods. He had to be moved to make room in Tacoma for Wily Mo Pena, and while the Mariners have run the risk of losing Langerhans before, this time it looks more permanent. This time, Ryan Langerhans may never come back.

Langerhans brought us some great memories as a Mariner, two of which are embedded below this post on the front page, and overall he was just fine for what he is. This move, though, provides an opportunity for people to look back on the day he was brought in for Mike Morse. Morse has blossomed into a fine hitter with the Nationals, and given that Langerhans was little more than an unspectacular backup outfielder, there are a lot of people out there who think that was a dumb move, and wish it had never been made.

Well, those are two separate things. As for the latter, all right. It's sensible to wish this trade had never been made, given what Morse has turned into, and given how this organization is light on hitters. Of course, there's no guarantee that Morse would've followed the same development path with the Mariners. That's impossible to know.

As for the former, though, no. As we've said a million times, a front office can only operate with the knowledge it has at the time of a move. When Morse was traded for Langerhans, the Mariners were in the AL West running, but they were down a speedy left-handed outfielder after Endy Chavez got obliterated by our shortstop. The team had a need, and Langerhans fit as a guy who could get on base and play all three positions.

To get Langerhans, the Mariners gave up a guy who wasn't highly thought of at the time. Morse was a poor defensive 27-year-old infielder in triple-A hitting for a high average. He wasn't much in the field, he didn't walk, and his power was limited, meaning his value was mostly tied up in singles and doubles. That wasn't much of a package. Morse had his supporters, but it did not look like he had a Major League future - at least not as a starter. It was easy to see him as a pinch-hitter or something.

And then, in 2010, Morse kicked it up. To illustrate what happened, here are Morse's PA per home run (combined) in triple-A and the Majors:

2007-2009: 36.0
2010-2011: 20.1

Morse was always projectable. He was always toolsy. Morse is a big dude, and big dudes are expected to be able to hit the ball a long way. In isolation, it is not surprising that Mike Morse is a decent power hitter now with the Nationals.

But when he was traded away, Morse hadn't yet shown that ability on a consistent basis. Granted, he missed almost all of 2008 after surgery, but he was a 27-year-old line drive hitter who was hitting home runs about as often as the old Mike Carp. He wasn't what he's become, and there were only faint glimmers that he'd be able to make this leap.

You could argue that he shouldn't have been jettisoned specifically because he was so projectable and toolsy, but, how long do you hang on to those guys? How highly do you value them? How long do you wait for a guy to hit for big power before you give up on him hitting for big power? Morse, to that point, had nearly 1,400 plate appearances in triple-A and the Majors. He had 28 home runs. Things didn't look good.

Obviously, they've worked out. Obviously, Morse has improved, seizing an opportunity in Washington and establishing himself as a big league hitter. He still doesn't walk, and he still doesn't play a lot of defense, but he hits the ball hard enough often enough to stay in the lineup.

I just don't think you can blame the Mariners for letting him get away. The deal doesn't look great in hindsight, but you can't evaluate these things by hindsight, because that isn't fair. You can be happy for Morse. You can wish the Mariners didn't deal him. But I don't think it's fair to say they screwed up. They dealt a guy of limited value for a guy of limited value who fit an immediate need. That's the right thing to do.