|The Cubs’ acquisition of Matt Garza left them with three overqualified candidates—lefthander Tom Gorzelanny and righties Carlos Silva and Randy Wells—for the final two spots in their rotation. Chicago cleared the way for Silva and Wells, while also restocking its prospect depth after the eight-player Garza deal, by trading Gorzelanny to the Nationals for a trio of mid-level prospects. Headed to the Cubs are 24-year-old righthander A.J. Morris, power-hitting right fielder Michael Burgess and low Class A lefty Graham Hicks.
Washington’s rotation projects to have plenty of room for Gorzelanny. Veterans Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis figure to lead the way, while John Lannan attempts to rebound from a down 2010 season and Jordan Zimmermann accumulates innings in his second year back from Tommy John surgery. Cuban import Yuniesky Maya is 29 and appears ready to contribute after a strong turn in the Dominican League. He went 4-2, 1.32 for Escogido with 42 strikeouts in 41 innings.
|A.J. Morris, rhp
Born: Dec. 1, 1986 in Humble, Texas.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R.
School: Kansas State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Nationals in fourth round of 2009 draft; signed July 7, 2009.
Morris pitched effectively enough as a starter for Potomac, going 3-2, 3.16 with 49 strikeouts in 57 innings, but he came down with a sore arm in June and missed nearly a month. The Nationals shifted him to the bullpen upon his return to Carolina League action in mid-July and Morris showed improved velocity, hitting 95 mph, if lesser results—he notched a 12-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 15 innings to go with a 6.60 ERA. Morris effectively keeps the ball on the ground (seven homers allowed in 129 pro innings) because his fastball features plus sink and boring action at 91-93 mph. He mixes in an average slider with hard bite that he throws for strikes and as a chase pitch. A sinker/slider reliever in training, Morris could surface in Chicago at some point in 2011, most likely in middle relief.
|Michael Burgess, rf
Age: 22. Position: RF (118 G), LF (1 G).
Born: Oct. 20, 1988 in Tampa.
Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 195. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Hillsborough HS, Tampa.
Career Transactions: Selected by Nationals in supplemental first round (49th overall) of 2007 draft; signed July 2, 2007.
Burgess ranked among Washington’s top 10 prospects every year from 2008-10, but he had dropped into the 11-20 tier heading into 2011 after a second straight season in high Class A. He’s taken 937 at-bats for Potomac in the past three years, batting just .245 but with above-average power output in the form of 37 homers and an isolated power figure of .182. Stocky and strong, Burgess concentrated on making more contact last season, which he did at the expense of a bit of power. However, the higher contact rate earned him his first promotion to Double-A, where he launched six homers in 21 games while showing his customary aggressive approach. Burgess has major leaugue average power potential, and he defends and throws well in right field, so it’s too early to close the book on a career as a part-timer or lefty power bat off the bench.
|Tom Gorzelanny, lhp
Age: 28. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2011-13 seasons ($800,000 salary in ’10).
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.