Early returns on the Minnesota Twins season have indicated that they will be toward the bottom of the AL Central standings once the July 31 trade deadline arrives. While anything could still happen, if the Twins are in this likely situation they'll be tempted to trade Justin Morneau.
After Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, Morneau is hitting .233 with a home run and two runs batted in. By no means is Morneau scorching the ball at this point, but he's shown enough promise to make one think that he'll be able to post a .280 average with 20 bombs and 100 runs batted in.
That potential could make it enticing for a competing team with a hole at first base. If Morneau catches fire, he could help several teams looking for a playoff push. Teams like the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers and the Milwaukee Brewers could use Morneau's services.
So if the Twins are interested in trading Morneau (and we have no indication that they are), the next question becomes when should teams start calling the Twins about their Canadian Crusher?
While Morneau does look healthy to begin the season, there are several reasons why teams should wait before they inquire about the former American League Most Valuable Player.
The most glaring reason is Morneau's health.
It's been well-documented that Morneau could be done if he bumps his head coming out of the dugout. At this point, Morneau hasn't even played at first base this season because it would make him fatigued and would make him vulnerable to another concussion.
Another reason why teams should wait is because, at this point in the season, there could be someone who is just waiting to blossom and fill that hole. In 2006, the Twins found that with Michael Cuddyer as he rebounded from a bad 2005 season after being moved from third base to right field.
To call and make an early trade for Morneau would be a mistake for a general manager and could actually impede the development of a team that usually peaks between June and July.
That ties into the other reason that we don't know what Morneau is capable of at this point of the season. Morneau was one of the few Twins who hit in the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles, but then fell short during several key moments in the Rangers series at Target Field.
If a team is getting the Justin Morneau who averaged a line of .298 with 27 home runs and 105 runs batted in between 2006 and 2010, they'll be ecstatic. But what if Morneau has a season more on par with the .227 with four home runs and 30 runs batted in that he had in 2012?
Basically, there's no way to tell yet if Morneau is ready to explode back into the Morneau of old. With the Twins probably demanding one or two top pitching prospects in return for one of the faces of their franchise, it would be foolish for a team to jump the gun now.
The best option for one of these teams would be to wait until the Twins are stuck at the bottom of the AL Central in June and try and work something out then.