Entering Wednesday’s action, the Minnesota Twins are in last place in the American League Central with a 40-57 record, leaving them 12 games out of first place in the division with a little less than a week left before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Quite a few players have been mentioned in trade rumors, but one of the names that has come up recently is first baseman Justin Morneau.
Morneau has stayed relatively healthy this season, hitting .253 with 11 home runs, 40 RBI and a .436 slugging percentage in 289 at-bats coming into Wednesday. He missed significant time in 2010 and 2011 due to a number of injuries, most notably a concussion suffered in July of 2010 and a left wrist issue that required surgery and caused a disabled list stint earlier this season, but neck, back, foot and knee issues have also bothered him at various times over the last couple years. Morneau is a four-time All-Star, and won the American League MVP in 2006 when he hit .321 and set career-highs with 36 home runs and 130 RBI.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan has said no player is off limits in trade talks, rightfully so in most cases, and the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly now have Morneau on their radar as they try to keep themselves in the National League playoff race.
If Morneau’s recent injury issues does not scare teams off, the fact he is making $14 million this season and is due to make the same amount in the final year of his contract in 2013 may limit the number of teams interested in him. But the Dodgers recently acquired shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins and took on the rest of his contract, which is due to pay him $31.5 million in 2013 and 2014 combined. So the new ownership in Los Angeles may not be turned off by the money left on Morneau’s deal. At minimum, Morneau offers an upgrade over current Dodgers’ first baseman James Loney, who entered Wednesday hitting .252 with just two home runs and 26 RBI over 270 at-bats.
The biggest question at play here is just how aggressively the Twins have shopped Morneau to other teams up to this point and if that will change in either direction leading up to next Tuesday’s trade deadline. There is not an obvious replacement for him in the minor league pipeline right now, though Chris Parmelee has the potential to become a good big league hitter and adequate defensive first baseman if given the opportunity.