Justin Morneau: 7 Reasons Trading Him Is the Best Move in July
Two seasons ago, Justin Morneau was one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. The 2006 American League Most Valuable Player Award winner was on pace in 2010 to not only set career-highs, but possibly win his second MVP award.
Next to Joe Mauer, Morneau was the second-best player on the Twins and not even Target Field was going to slow him down. Then came July 7, 2010.
Morneau charged hard into second base trying to break up a double play in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. What seemed like a harmless play in real time on television wound up as a nightmare for Morneau as he has not regained his MVP form since then.
Morneau has played just 69 games for the Minnesota Twins since then and because of multiple injuries (in addition to another concussion suffered in September), he has looked like a shell of his former self.
All of this has an interesting question that has been sparked by comments made by ESPN's Jim Bowden.
The Twins will not be contenders, their payroll gives them little flexibility, and the front office is high on first baseman Chris Parmelee.”
“The Rangers, who have a hole at first, may need another bat to keep pace with the other elite AL teams, and with Josh Hamilton a free agent at season's end, they may decide to trade for Morneau at the deadline, as he appears to be healthy for the first time in a couple of years."
If Justin Morneau has any value at the July trade deadline should the Twins trade one of their faces of the franchise? Here is why a Morneau trade would make sense.
Morneau's Concussion History Makes Him Vulnerable to Another One
As mentioned on the last slide, the play which derailed Morneau's career to this point didn't look that bad when played in real time on television. With Morneau's previous concussion history, it really doesn't take much to give him one.
As the public learns more about concussions, one of the big things that has been revealed is that people who have sustained previous concussions are more vulnerable to future concussions.
Morneau grew up in Canada where he once aspired to be a hockey goalie. The physicality of hockey took its toll on Morneau's brain as he suffered several concussions as a kid before coming to baseball.
In his baseball career alone, Morneau has suffered three more concussions. Aside from the 2010 concussion, Morneau was drilled in the head by Ron Villone in 2005 and suffered another concussion diving for a ground ball late in 2011.
Morneau has done everything he can to get his neck and wrist ready for the season, but he has to be careful with his head. Morneau will start the season as the designated hitter for the Twins, and that could have something to do with our next reason.
Morneau Doesn't Trust His Own Health
Justin Morneau's concussion history may be scary enough. It's even scarier when the man himself isn't sure if his concussion symptoms are completely gone.
At the beginning of spring training Justin Morneau gave a grim outlook on his recovery (via Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com):
"I don't think there'll be a career if it's something I'm dealing with. That's the reality of the whole thing. I've kind of come to grips with that. I'm obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point when you can only torture yourself so long. It's something I love to do, but you keep preparing and keep being let down, that's something that nobody wants to go through, obviously. It's been a tough winter that way. I try not to think about that kind of stuff."
If Morneau is able to stay healthy in 2011, it would be a great story for the Twins. However, the concussion situation is so fragile that Morneau could find himself coincidentally getting his head banged around which would prematurely end his career.
Trading Morneau would protect the Twins in the event that this scenario plays out.
Chris Parmelee Is Emerging as the 1st Baseman of the Future
One year ago, Chris Parmelee wasn't on any Twins fans' radar as a person who could contribute to the major league club. As we head into the 2012 season, Parmelee will be the Twins' starting first baseman.
Perhaps Parmelee is just on a hot streak, but he is becoming the Twins first baseman of the future, and that might relegate Justin Morneau to designated hitter duty.
While that might not be a bad thing considering Morneau's past, it also means that the Twins will be starting their full-fledged rebuilding phase soon.
Remember that the first run of success Terry Ryan had was when he got rid of aging veterans and let the prospects learn their way at the Major League level. If the Twins get off to a bad start, this could be the time to do just that.
The Twins Don't Project to Be Very Good in 2012
If the Twins get off to the slow start some of the fans are expecting, it could mean that the 2012 season will be as long as the 2011 season was.
It could also mean it's time to accelerate Minnesota's rebuilding process. Several of the Twins' top players with trade value such as Francisco Liriano, Denard Span and Justin Morneau, could be dealt for prospects and the Twins will finally bottom out to get better.
A scenario like that is something Twins fans don't want to see play out, but the likeliness is that the Twins will finish toward the bottom of the AL Central in 2012. To get the most possible out of a season like that, the Twins may have to part ways with Morneau.
The Twins Could Use Morneau to Reload Their Farm System
The one team that Bowden referred to while making the comment of discussion was the Texas Rangers.
At the major league level, the Rangers have a dearth at first base and could decide to trade for Morneau to help fill the void. If that happens, the Twins would have just won the lottery.
According to Baseball America, the Rangers have the best farm system in all of baseball. A Morneau deal could allow the Twins to tap into the Rangers' system and stock their team with top-level prospects such as shortstop Jurickson Profar (a far-fetched scenario), or pitchers like Martin Perez.
Even if the Twins don't trade with the Rangers, the lure of prospects could be tantalizing if the team is struggling come July.
The Twins Could Dump Justin Morneau's $14 Million Salary
Twins fans don't want to hear this either, but the current stance of the organization is to shed payroll. It almost seemed like Twins owner Jim Pohlad was cheering for a 99-loss season in 2012 as it gave him a reason to point out the Twins' $114 million payroll and go, "See? Money doesn't translate into wins!"
The current path of the Twins' front office is to try and remodel their franchise into something like the Tampa Bay Rays. In other words, even with the steady stream of revenue from Target Field, Pohlad wouldn't like to burn all of those resources.
Trading Morneau would save the team $14 million in 2013, and the Twins could use that money to...um...uh...fill Pohlad's Scrooge McDuck style swimming pool?
More realistically, perhaps the Twins could use that $14 million and use it to put some better pieces around Joe Mauer via free agency and other moves.
Morneau's Bat Could Help Another Team in July
From another team's perspective, trading for Morneau could be a bold move that would help their franchise in the long term.
While trading for Morneau would be a huge risk for somebody like the Texas Rangers, his bat could pay immense dividends for not only 2012, but down the road as well.
The Rangers are currently having a problem with Josh Hamilton entering the last year of his contract. With Hamilton's history of injuries and substance abuse, it's been rumored that the Rangers don't want to give Hamilton a long-term contract.
Adding Morneau would not only help the Rangers offense this year, but it would provide insurance if they can't come to an agreement with Hamilton after the 2012 season.