Potential Justin Morneau Suitors, Trade Packages After He Cleared Waivers
One of the few big bats who could be on the move this August is Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau. He was placed on waivers Tuesday and went unclaimed, leaving him free for anyone to make an offer.
There was a time when Morneau was an elite first baseman, winning the 2006 AL MVP award and slugging at least 30 home runs three times in a four-year stretch from 2006-09.
Those days are long gone, as he has battled injuries and is basically a platoon player at this point. Morneau is hitting an uninspired .262/.318/.423 in 111 games, but the 32-year-old has put together a solid .282/.344/.478 line against right-handed hitters.
Any team interested in acquiring Morneau, if there is one based on going unclaimed, will have to embrace those limitations and negotiate with the Twins over how much of his remaining salary they have to pay. (For the record, he's making $14 million this season.)
With all that, here are the teams and potential deals that would make sense for Morneau and the Twins.
New York Yankees
Trade: Justin Morneau to the New York Yankees for RHP Jose Ramirez and cash considerations
Given the still-sad state of their offense, the Yankees have to be mentioned with any bat that becomes available. I don't think they are still playoff contenders at 5.5 games behind Tampa Bay in the wild-card race with three other teams ahead of them.
But we know that the Yankees rarely sit on their hands waiting for something to happen. Morneau hasn't been much better than Lyle Overbay (.255/.307/.429) but could be a better fit for Yankee Stadium as he's got a better swing to hit home runs than Overbay.
Plus, the Yankees could insert him at designated hitter on days they decide to let Alex Rodriguez play third base to give their lineup a little more length.
The Twins may put a relatively high price tag on Morneau, at least considering his current value, because he's been such a huge part of the franchise for so long and is one of the few "power" bats available right now. That could scare the Yankees off, but we know how desperate this front office can get when its back is up against a corner.
Jose Ramirez is a power reliever with a heavy fastball, inconsistent off-speed stuff and below-average command. He is 23 years old and likely won't be more than a sixth- or seventh-inning guy in the big leagues but does add depth to a bullpen.
Trade: Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 1B Matt Curry
The Pirates have had all sorts of problems scoring runs this season, which makes their run to the top of the National League Central that much more surprising. All of the credit for their success goes to Andrew McCutchen's MVP-caliber performance and the pitching staff.
But if this team has designs of making a run in the postseason, general manager Neal Huntington has to add another bat. He couldn't get one before the trade deadline, so Morneau would be a fallback plan.
Garrett Jones has been Pittsburgh's primary first baseman this season, but he's hitting just .250/.304/.424 with 10 home runs in 328 at-bats. Morneau has 14 home runs and 42 extra-base hits in a much bigger ballpark.
The Pirates have a deep farm system that would be very appealing for the Twins to try and find a diamond in the rough. Of all the teams listed, the Pirates make the most sense for Morneau because of their need.
Matt Curry is a career minor leaguer with some raw power who has never figured out how to consistently translate it into results on the field. He could add depth to a system that already has the best power hitter in the minors.
Trade: Justin Morneau to the Oakland Athletics for C Bruce Maxwell
The A's are in a position where they really don't need to do anything to get in the playoffs, ranking 10th in runs scored and 13th in home runs, but a move here or there could make them a little bit better. They made a nice, small move at the non-waiver deadline to get Alberto Callaspo for second base.
Morneau wouldn't exactly fill a roll at first base for Oakland because Brandon Moss, while not exactly a great option, has found a niche that works for him as primarily a slugger (.452 slugging percentage).
But there is a hole at designated hitter in Oakland. Seth Smith has spent 92 games in that role this year hitting a paltry .246/.319/.375 with six home runs. Morneau may not want to be a DH-only player heading into free agency, but he would get the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot right now.
Knowing what we do about the A's, Morneau might not fit in because he isn't under control beyond this season and the Twins might have to eat money (which could net them a better prospect), but Billy Beane has shown a willingness to take a chance if the opportunity is right.
For the Twins, Bruce Maxwell is an intriguing prospect. He has good hitting skills with a solid approach and above-average power, but without a clear future behind the plate, no one knows how to value him.
Perhaps the Twins can find something with him, because there is some potential value in the bat.
Trade: Justin Morneau to the Cleveland Indians for C Tony Wolters
Another team that has must be mindful of money, the Indians have all but fallen out of the race in the American League Central and are fading in the wild-card race. Their biggest need remains pitching, but an inconsistent offense isn't helping matters.
Carlos Santana has hit .216/.286/.352 since the All-Star break. Asdrubal Cabrera has basically been a replacement-level player this season. Jason Giambi might get all the respect in the world for being a great person, but how long can you keep a .181/.281/.368 hitter on the roster?
The Indians have already let Mark Reynolds, a slightly better version of Jason Giambi making a lot more money, go because he wasn't adding anything.
Morneau could slot in at first base or DH. If he plays first base, Nick Swisher could move out to right field so that Drew Stubbs' .243/.302/.365 line doesn't have to take up a lineup spot, and it will allow them to keep Yan Gomes in the lineup at catcher with Santana as a DH.
If Morneau goes to DH, they get a significant upgrade from what Giambi gave them, and Terry Francona can figure out what to do with the Santana/Gomes catching situation.
Tony Wolters is an interesting prospect because he spent the first three years of his career as a middle infielder before moving to catcher this season. He's going to need time to learn the position, putting his timetable to the big leagues up in the air. But the 21-year-old also has decent hitting tools with some pop and bat speed to make him at least a backup in the future.