Justin Morneau: What Recent Hot Streak Means for His Future in Minnesota
The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in Major League Baseball has come and gone, so Minnesota Twins fans can breathe easier knowing that their favorite Canadian crusher is still wearing their favorite team's uniform.
Actually, that might not have been the case. Since the beginning of the season, Twins fans have been crossing their fingers that Justin Morneau would play well enough and that general manager Terry Ryan could flip him to another team for prospects they so dearly need.
That didn't happen over the first three months of the season, so by default Morneau stayed a member of the Twins. But then July 1 happened.
On July 1, Morneau was having his second consecutive nondescript season (.239 with 10 home runs and 34 runs batted in) after suffering a concussion in July 2010.
Since then, Morneau has found his old form, which won him the 2006 American League Most Valuable Player award and got him in the hunt in two other seasons (2008 and 2010). That form would be summarized in his .341 average with six home runs and 22 RBI since July 1.
So with the Morneau of old swinging the bat, the next question is what does this mean for the Twins and Morneau moving forward?
While he is 31 years old, he has suffered several concussions and is one bump to the head from being in the same position he was one season ago. That track record could prevent the Twins from signing him to an extension when he hits the open market after the 2013 season.
However, there could be outside forces that could determine whether Morneau is a Twin for life or just a stopgap between now and the 2013 trade deadline.
That first factor is the performance of the team as a whole.
The Twins haven't been very good this season, and with the team likely looking to keep the payroll around the $100 million mark getting rid of Morneau (who is owed $14 million in 2013) for prospect Chris Parmelee (owed $400,000 next season) it may make sense for the team to move on and shed payroll.
If Morneau is continuing this streak through the 2013 season, the Twins could get that haul of prospects they were looking for and clear up some money as well.
But that would mean there's another factor, and that is the team's ownership. The Pohlads are still making money, and Parmelee is a highly-regarded prospect who is currently mashing at Triple-A Rochester.
Whether or not Morneau is hitting or if Ryan wants to sign him to an extension may be irrelevant if the Pohlads want to have the payroll continue to go down despite getting a new cash cow of a stadium just three seasons ago.
All of this would also become irrelevant if Morneau went back into his two-year slump and found himself struggling at the plate again. Because baseball is a funny game, Morneau could easily find his way back in the low .200s. Or worse, back on the disabled list with another concussion.
While it would be nice to see this hot streak continue into the 2013 season and beyond, the Twins have an interesting decision to make on Morneau prior to his contract expiring in the winter of 2013.
Only time will tell if one of the staples of Twins baseball for the past decade will finish his career where it began.
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