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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Justin Morneau Trade: My Reaction

I was at New Britain Stadium this morning
to take batting practice. This was the first
thing I saw upon entering the gates.
I've always been unable to separate the business side from the personal side when it comes to Justin Morneau. He's been my favorite Twins player for the better part of the last decade. I've met him a few times, I've watched him donate large sums to charity -- and organize his own charitable events, and I've watched him hit the hell out of the baseball and give 100% on the field all the time. I read every article on his concussion and rehabilitation, hoping against odds that he would come back to resemble the guy that was on an MVP pace the first half of 2010. This past month, I knew a trade was probably coming, but today my heart is still a little heavy knowing that #33 won't be manning first base any longer for the Twins. It's no understatement to say that this is the end of an era: the end of the "M & M" Era. I can acknowledge that Morneau probably wouldn't have been part of the next competitive Twins team, but that doesn't mean that I wanted to see him go.

The good news for Morneau is that he's healthy, he's been hitting for power this past month, and he's getting the opportunity to play in meaningful games for the first time in 3 years. He gets to go to Pittsburgh -- a fun, energized baseball city with one of the best parks. Hopefully, he'll play an important role for a team that has a good chance to compete in October. As much as Morneau's identity was intertwined with Minnesota and the Twins community, he's a professional athlete, and I'm sure the possibility of taking September and October at-bats in a pennant race produces a special kind of energy -- an energy he hasn't felt in several years.

But my source of frustration is that, in this trade, the Twins didn't really do anything to get better for the future -- aside from the possibility that the remaining $2+ million owed to Morneau could be spent this offseason on talent. Believe me, I completely understand that every single baseball team passed on Morneau during the waiver period. That alone is significant, and it strongly suggested that any trade return wouldn't be impressive. But if the Twins had been willing to eat part of that $2 million, could they have netted one solid prospect, rather than 28 year old fourth outfielder Alex Presley (we already have a few fourth outfielders), and Duke Welker, a righty reliever that throws hard but has control problems (note that at this time, Welker is only rumored to be the player to be named later)? Otherwise stated, my question is this: if the Twins had paid half or more of the money owed to Morneau, could they have received a better prospect from Pittsburgh? If the answer to that question is yes, then I'm disappointed with the result of this trade.

The Twins are obviously rebuilding. They haven't said it, which frustrates me, but it's happening. Part of a rebuild is that deals have to be made with the future in mind. If I'm Terry Ryan, I'm evaluating every trade with the following mindset: "Is Player X (meaning the player the Twins are to receive) likely to play a role on the next Twins team that is legitimately competing for a division title, which probably won't be until 2015 or 2016?" If the answer is "no," or if it would take a miracle for the answer to be "yes," then Ryan should go back to the drawing board. Yes, sometimes a legitimate return isn't really possible. Maybe that was the case with Jamey Carroll, in which case cash probably was an acceptable return. In fact, sometimes just having a player off your 40-man roster, and having another team take on the contract, might be enough of a return. But something was different about Morneau. Yes, he's not as good as he once was, but there is still gas in the tank. What if the Twins had let it be known that they would pay all the money owed to Morneau, but would expect a better return? It's tough for me to imagine that no team would have offered better than Alex Presley and a PTBNL.

This trade is complicated for me. I'm disappointed that I'll probably never see Justin Morneau play a game in person again. I'm sad -- as a fan -- that the M & M Era is over. I mean, these guys lived together and were practically best friends. I'm sad that Justin Morneau won't get to see good baseball in Minnesota again, when guys like Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton come up. I'm disappointed that, unless the PTBNL pans out, the Twins probably saved $2 million, but didn't improve one iota for the future. In the end, maybe Ryan did offer to pay the entire $2 million, and maybe no team had a better offer. But I can't get it out of my mind that this feels like penny-pinching Twins deals of the mid 1990s all over again.


  1. Alex Presley was blocked in Pittsburgh. He joins the Twins with a 2013 BA of .264 (higher now, after last night's 3 for 4 performance), which places him with the third highest BA on the Twins after Mauer & Ramirez.

    I really appreciate what Justin did for this team. I am a big Morneau fan. Unless Parmelee or Colabello do some amazing things I could see Justin signing with the Twins in the off-season.

    But to say we got nothing for him is unkind, or maybe impatient. Let's give Presley a chance to show what he has.

    Go Justin! Go Pirates!

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree -- we do need to give Presley a chance. I certainly don't have anything against him personally. But upon first glance he does fail the "will this player be a factor on the next competitive Twins team" test. And I say that expecting Buxton, Arcia, Hicks (and even throw Rosario there in an emergency, or Sano if he can't stick at third base) to have taken the reigns in the outfield by 2016.

    That being said, perhaps Presley will show himself to be better than Mastroianni or Clete Thomas. And in that case, there's definitely value.