What will the Twins do with Justin Morneau?
The buzz around the baseball world this weekend surrounded the blockbuster trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. In the deal, the Dodgers got Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. Besides dumping a ton of salary, the Red Sox got James Loney, Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Jerry Sands, and Ivan De Jesus. It is pretty amazing to see a deal like this getting done since players need to pass through waivers before being traded at this point in the season.
[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]One interesting note for Twins fans that came out after this big deal went down was that the Dodgers turned to Adrian Gonzalez after failing to get Justin Morneau. It was the second time this season that the Dodgers had contacted the Twins about a deal for Morneau The first time was around the trade deadline but the Twins passed at that time and it seems that the team passed on a deal for him once again last week.
Morneau struggled on the field at the beginning of 2012 as he adjusted back to being a full time player for the first time in two years. There were plenty of question marks surrounding his health in spring training but he has put many of these issues to rest. After appearing in a combined 150 games in the last two seasons, Morneau has played in 103 contests and he is showing no signs of slowing down. He has hit .322/.368/.517 with 6 home runs and 11 doubles in the second half of the season which is much closer to the old MVP version of the slugging first baseman.
There is one season remaining on the big contract that Morneau signed with the Twins back in 2008. The 31-year old outfielder is due $14 million for next season and that is a lot of money for a team that doesn't know if they will be in contention. With his big contract and looming free agency, there will continue to be rumors about the future of Morneau with the Twins. So the question remains, what will the Twins do with Justin Morneau?
Since the trade deadline has come and gone, the only way Morneau could be dealt at this point in the season is by being placed on waivers. From the sound of the reports out of Los Angeles, Morneau has already been placed on waivers. If he was claimed by the Dodgers, that means that all of the teams in the American League passed on Morneau and most of the National League followed the same path. With all of that being said, a waiver deal seems unlikely at this point in the season
When the offseason rolls around, the Twins could play off of Morneau's positive second half and try to work a trade to another club. Terry Ryan is back in the saddle for a full offseason and a Morneau deal could bring some prized possessions back to the minor leagues of the organization. Allowing teams to see that Morneau is fully healthy for all of 2012 could also go a long way to increasing his value in the trade market. There will be plenty of rumors surrounding Morneau this offseason and the winter meetings will be full of discussion on the slugger.
If the front office feels that there aren't any adequate deals for Morneau in the offseason, they could hold on to the first baseman for the beginning of next year. His strong bat fits well into the middle of a line-up and the team might want to get some more value out of their former MVP. He could be a very useful piece if the team finds themselves in contention next year in the AL Central. Chances are that the Twins won't be in contention next season and a trade deadline deal might have to be struck for the star. Fans were unhappy with this year's deadline deal for Francisco Liriano so it might not be in the team's best interest to wait until next July for a trade to get done.
There is always the chance that the Twins will hang on to Morneau through all of next season before he becomes a free agent. This would allow the team to consider a contract extension for the player who has only known the Twins organization. He will be 32-years old during the 2013 season and he might want a change of scenery as he starts getting closer to the end of his career. The lure of going to a club with more recent playoff success could be too much to turn down. Money will no doubtably play some kind of role in his choice but the Twins saw Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan leave for greener pastures this past offseason.
While the Twins will have to make a decision about Morneau in the coming year, the elephant in the room is Chris Parmelee and his hot swinging bat in the minor leagues. Parmelee has been with the Twins on a few different occasions this season and it has been tough for him to find at-bats with the club at the big league level. If Morneau is still on the roster during next season, it could still be hard for the Twins to find at-bats for Parmelee. For the Twins, Parmelee would be a much cheaper option at first base since he would be making the minimum salary. He will also be 25-years old for the entirety of next season so the Twins need to see if he can handle playing at the big league level.
The Twins will have plenty of choice to make in the coming months with a variety of players on the roster but the future of Morneau will be watched closely by all of Twins Territory.