Mid-Season Trade Candidates–Justin Morneau

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Name: Justin Morneau

Tale of the tape: 31-years-old; bats left; throws right; 6’4”; 220 lbs.

Contract status: $14 million annual salary for 2012 and 2013; free agent after 2013.

Would the Twins trade him?

Yes.

This was reported with an undertone of shock as if it was unheard of before the likes of Ken Rosenthal implied it as a possibility. The Twins took an attitude of “let’s get back to doing things the Twins way” when Terry Ryan stepped back into the General Manager’s seat. Part of that was hoping Morneau recovered enough from his post-concussion issues and other injuries to become the MVP-level player he was until mid-season 2010 when his world—literally and figuratively—was shaken from its axis from a blow to the head trying to break up a double play. Since then it’s been one thing or another for Morneau and the Twins. The team has become a punching bag.

They’re not dumping salary just for the sake of it so Joe Mauer won’t be available, but Morneau is a free agent after 2013, he won’t be around when they start to get better and clearing that salary will free them to spend it on what they need this winter (pitching) and get rid of Morneau while he’s healthy and showing signs of a resurgence.

There’s a thought that the trading of Morneau would allow the Twins to move Mauer to first base, but I don’t think that’s as automatic as is being suggested. Mauer is smart enough to understand that his bat is far more valuable than his ability to catch, but he likes and wants to catch. Had the Twins held onto Wilson Ramos, they would’ve had a capable and young replacement behind the plate. Now they don’t. If Mauer plays first base, it will be on a part-time basis. I’d expect the Twins to find an everyday first baseman on the cheap for a short-term deal until Mauer is past his 30th birthday and is ready to make the permanent shift from behind the plate.

The Twins’ mistake in trading Ramos is now being magnified for the gaffe it was. They got a pretty good reliever in Matt Capps, but he’s most certainly not worth a team’s number 1 prospect whether his path is blocked by a Hall of Fame-level player in Mauer or not. If a team is trading that type of talent there are two things that can save them: 1) have it work as it did for the Marlins when they traded Adrian Gonzalez as part of the deal to get Ugueth Urbina and won the World Series; and 2) have the team that traded for the player either trade him as well or see him fail. Because the Rangers also traded Gonzalez (who wasn’t considered a great prospect by either team), it’s not referenced as a horrible trade.

It’s a dual-pronged defense for the Marlins.

Morneau—if he’s healthy and hitting for power—could be the difference between not making the playoffs and winning the World Series.

What would they want for him?

The Twins need everything from starting pitching to bullpen help to a corner infield bat who can hit.

It’s not outrageous to think they could get legitimate prospects in two of those spots and a moderate prospect in the third. If they’re willing to eat some of Morneau’s salary, they’ll get better prospects. The idea that the Twins are a mid-market team is accurate in name only. The Pohlad family is one of the richest ownerships in sports. The business model exercised by the late Carl Pohlad made it appear as if they held the team payroll in check out of necessity, but that’s not the case. It was a conscious choice. Pohlad was criticized for it, but he was a businessman. Like most offshoots of a wide-ranging structure, the Twins had a budget and Pohlad made his baseball people stick to it without doling endless streams of extra money from the emergency jar.

There’s nothing wrong with that and for the Twins, it worked.

Which teams would pursue and have the prospects to get him?

The Yankees, Blue Jays, Indians, Marlins, Cardinals and Dodgers have the financial wherewithal and prospects to get it done. Other clubs that might be involved if they’re willing to give up what the Twins want in exchange for Morneau and money to pay him are the Indians and Pirates.

What will happen.

Morneau is going to get traded and I’d bet on him winding up with the Dodgers.

Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti is aggressive and doesn’t mess around. Much was made of his decision to trade Carlos Santana as part of the trade that got the Dodgers Casey Blake in 2008. In the long-term, it was a mistake; in the short-term with a little luck the Dodgers could’ve won a World Series or two with Blake. Had that happened, it would’ve been the same situation as the Marlins had with trading Gonzalez for Urbina. With the new ownership taking over, Colletti will be free to do as he sees fit. Upgrading the offense is paramount for the Dodgers and Morneau fills that bill.

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4 thoughts on “Mid-Season Trade Candidates–Justin Morneau

  1. The Yankees farm system has a dearth of position playing, big league ballplayers. Would it not be possible, in some alternate universe, where DeWayne Wise and Raul Ibanez do not patrol the outfield instead of the injured and likely to remain injured Brett Gardner, to do a bit of a reverse Montero, and trade some of the so called “top pitching prospects” like Banuelos or Betances, with some potentially meritorious low minor leaguer, for an actual Outfielder? Say, Peter Bourgos? I know that’s not aiming too high, but he’s a good outfielder, could actually steal a base, and would be an improvement on everyone else playing the outfield for the Y ankees, including Granderson, and excluding Gardner, and who knows when we will see him again. Plus it seems as though LA has an abundance of outfielders. Of course, it’s more likely that the Yankees would trade for a fading veteran like Vernon Wells or Torii Hunter, but to see an actual under 27 player! It would be so exciting.

    1. I like Bourjos, but he’s the essentially the same player as Gardner with a little more power. The Yankees are not touching Hunter. No one’s touching Wells. The Yankees offense at the big league level is fine and they’re stuck with A-Rod and Teixeira whether they hit or not. They’re either going to have to sign Swisher to an extension or find a new rightfielder, but that’s something to worry about after this season.
      The problem with Banuelos and Betances is that Banuelos’s injury has lowered his value and the Yankees have so much invested in his hype-laden development–and they’re stinging from the disastrous trade of Montero and Noesi–that they’re not going to deal Banuelos before giving him a big league shot.
      Betances can’t throw strikes. I’m sure someone would take him, but they’re not giving up anything of note to get him, nor are they giving the Yankees something of big league use in the near term.
      I get the idea the Yankees are adhering to the plan of developing pitchers and finding hitters on the market. Their pitchers have arms, but they don’t know how to get them big league ready and are afraid to let them pitch.

  2. And how is Jose Campos recovering from his arm injury, anyway?

    Only recently came across your web site, and your May story on Cashman/Campos gave voice to the thoughts and emotions I have been experiencing since the trade was announced. All the so called experts and apologists who lauded the “gamble” when the trade was made, are still reluctant to excoriate the architect of what you so ably deemed “nightmarish”. Jesus, we hardly knew ye.

    1. Thanks for the compliments.
      We don’t know about Campos’s injury because it’s lockdown on information like it’s the old Soviet Union. He’s not pitching and the injury was “inflammation”. That’s all we know.
      I had no major issue with the trade even though I said at the time I wouldn’t have done it. The bottom line is this: if you’re trading your #1 hitting prospect, you’d better be getting a sure thing, not a maybe. Pineda and Campos were both maybes and now they’re both hurt.

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