Minnesota Twins: 5 Things That Must Happen to Avoid Trading Justin Morneau

Chris Schad@@crishadContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2013

Minnesota Twins: 5 Things That Must Happen to Avoid Trading Justin Morneau

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    There are few players in the history of the Minnesota Twins that have been as successful as Justin Morneau.

    Since debuting for the Twins in 2003, Morneau has gone on to win the American League Most Valuable Player award (2006), became a four-time all-star and lead the Twins to five division championships.

    However, Morneau's production has fallen off since suffering a concussion against the Toronto Blue Jays in July 2010.

    With his contract entering the final year, it appears that the Twins will have to trade one of the greatest sluggers in franchise history by the July trade deadline.

    Or will they?

    Baseball is a funny game and the planets of the Grimlap system could align and keep Morneau in a Twins uniform for the entire season and possibly beyond.

    It's not as far-fetched as some Twins fans may think.

Morneau Must Stay Healthy

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    Since becoming the full-time first baseman for the Twins in 2005, Justin Morneau was considered to be one of the toughest players at his position.

    In his first five seasons, Morneau missed a total of 58 games. This includes the 2008 season in which he appeared in all 163 games including a playoff with the Chicago White Sox.

    However, like so much of his career, Morneau's durability came to a screeching halt on the Rogers Centre turf.

    Since leaving with that concussion midway through the 2010 season, Morneau has missed 202 of a possible 405 games.

    A lot of that has had to do with nagging injuries and a history of concussions, but a recent interview with ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey says that it's a thing of the past.

    I'm feeling good, feeling strong, building strength instead of just doing rehab like I've done the last two winters -- not recovering from surgery, but actually building toward the goal of getting strong and being ready for spring training and being ready early for that World Baseball Classic.

    The argument could be made that if Morneau did become injured, his value would tank but that would be too grim for the purposes of this article.

    If Morneau can stay healthy, he has a chance to produce enough to stay in Minnesota.

Joe Mauer Must Remain at Catcher

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    Justin Morneau is not the only Twin to have durability issues over the past two seasons. Joe Mauer missed a majority of the 2011 season after a battle with bilateral leg weakness.

    To help keep Mauer on the field, the Twins shuffled him around with a mix of playing catcher, designated hitter, and first base.

    With Mauer turning 30 next April, the Twins may be in the process of making him the full-time first baseman as he's played 48 games at the position over the past two years.

    If such a move happens in 2013, it will make Morneau expendable. The best scenario to keep Morneau's Twins career alive is for Mauer to stay behind the plate.

Chris Parmelee Must Hold Down Right Field

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    Chris Parmelee's stock has risen over the past two seasons to the point where the Twins cleared a spot for him to be on the active roster by trading Ben Revere and Denard Span.

    Parmelee will be moved from his natural position of first base in order to get his phenomenal bat into the major league lineup.

    However, there's a chance Parmelee's transition will turn out like the one Michael Cuddyer had in 2005.

    Cuddyer was shuffled around throughout his stay in the Twins' farm system and was expected to be the replacement for Corey Koskie at third base.

    Despite being the utility man and making several starts at third in previous seasons, Cuddyer struggled in the field with 15 errors and at the plate with a .263 average with 12 home runs and 42 runs batted in. The following season, the Twins decided to place Cuddyer back to his natural position in right field.

    Turns out that was the right move.

    Cuddyer went crazy in 2006, hitting .284 with 24 home runs and 109 RBI while entrenching himself as the team's right fielder.

    If Parmelee has the same difficulties, he will be the one moving to first base and sending Morneau somewhere else.

Morneau Must Have a Great Start to the 2013 Season

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    Like Morneau's health, his start to the 2013 season could be the reason he stays with the Twins or the reason he gets traded.

    Just two seasons ago, Morneau was ready to make a run at his second MVP award.

    On pace for career-highs in average (.345) and home runs (would have had 36), he was a big part in leading the Twins to the American League Central championship in 2010 despite playing half the season.

    If Morneau feels as good as he claims, a fast start for the Canadian slugger is not out of the question. Of course none of that will matter if the Twins can't accomplish what's on the next slide.

The Twins Must Compete for the American League Central Championship

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    If the Twins are in the race for the American League Central championship, the Twins will have a hard time trading Morneau.

    Right now it doesn't seem like the Twins will finish anywhere close to the top of the American League Central standings.

    But stranger things have happened.

    Like the Oakland Athletics in 2012, it's a possibility that some of the Twins' unpopular moves during the offseason could pay off en route to a surprise division championship.

    If the Twins can't win, it will not matter if Morneau returns to form. He will be gone by the time the calendar turns to August.