SEATTLE — After he was reacquired by the team that gave him his major-league start, Mike Morse said he was “glad to be back home.”
He might like it even more once he sees how that home has been renovated.
The Mariners hoped to add a little more power this offseason, anyway. But those efforts took on added intrigue after they moved Safeco Field’s outfield fences in 4 to 17 feet. That should make the park that much more friendly to right-handed hitters like Morse, who hit 31 home runs in 2011 for the Washington Nationals.
In a deal announced Wednesday, the Mariners acquired Morse in a three-team trade that sent catcher/first baseman John Jaso to Oakland.
“We were looking for a banger,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “In Michael, I think we got that.”
The cost was Jaso, who won the team’s Unsung Hero award after hitting .276 with 10 home runs and 50 runs batted in last year. Oakland reportedly sent pitching prospect A.J. Cole to the Nationals to complete the trade.
Morse, who has one year left on a contract that pays him $6.75 million this year, was available after the Nationals signed free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche.
Zduriencik said he talked with Washington GM Mike Rizzo after the season and let him know he’d be interested in Morse. Oakland GM Billy Beane, meanwhile, had expressed interest in Jaso.
Eventually, the three-team deal came together, helping fulfill the Mariners’ offseason quest to add power to the lineup. The team earlier acquired Kendrys Morales from the Angels, as well.
“What we’ve seen is our lack of just flat-out raw power. And adding Michael, we’ve got a guy who has got big-time power,” Zduriencik said.
Morse didn’t necessarily show that while hitting only three home runs in 337 at-bats for the Mariners from 2005-08 after coming to Seattle from the White Sox in a trade for pitcher Freddy Garcia in 2004.
But he blossomed after being traded to the Nationals in 2009 for Ryan Langerhans, hitting 15 or more home runs each of the last three years.
Morse hit .291 with 17 doubles, 18 home runs and 62 RBI in 102 games last year after struggling with a strained-lat injury early in the season.
Morse said he’s healthy now and happy to return to Seattle.
“I love it out there and I always felt like I had unfinished-business kind of feelings in Seattle, that I never got to prove myself completely of what kind of player I could be or who I am,” he said.
He said he believed Seattle was where he “became a man,” and that “I’ve grown as a hitter, I’ve grown as a person” since he was a Mariner.
As for the new, cozier Safeco, Morse said: “I think it’s great. That will make Safeco Field play fair.”
Morse can play the corner outfield spots and first base, positions where the Mariners have plenty of candidates after the offseason additions of Jason Bay and former Mariner Raul Ibanez.
Zduriencik said he won’t ink in Morse to any particular position.
“We didn’t acquire Michael to be anything more than someone who can add to this lineup and add to it big-time,” he said.
The departure of Jaso, however, leaves the Mariners thin at catcher behind Jesus Montero. Last year’s first-round draft pick, Mike Zunino, has been invited to the major-league camp for spring training but is more likely to begin the season in the minors.
Zduriencik said the club will look for a backup catcher.
“No doubt we are going to be shopping,” he said, saying the team has already talked to a few. “We have our list out.”