The Minnesota Twins are certainly a long way from returning to playoff contention on the heels of two 90-plus loss seasons, and any veteran player outside of catcher Joe Mauer has to be considered a potential trade chip as their rebuilding process goes forward. Rumors have given way to action this offseason, as outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere were both dealt for young pitching. Could first baseman Justin Morneau be the next player moved?
2013 is the final season of Morneau’s contract, and he is due to make $14 million. If the significant money he is due is not enough, there is the question of Morneau’s health. He missed significant time during the 2010 and 2011 seasons due primarily to concussion and wrist issues, and he had surgeries to address knee and foot issues during that time frame as well.
However, Morneau was reasonably healthy in 2012 and hit .267 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI over 570 plate appearances. Those numbers are certainly not at the level he showed in being named American League MVP in 2006 (.321, 34 HR, 130 RBI) and with two other seasons with 30 or more home runs on his resume (2007 and 2009), but nearly equaling his games played total from the previous two seasons was definitely a win in the overall picture.
If the Twins are serious about moving Morneau before the season, any team in need of help at first base or looking to add a left-handed power hitter may have interest. Recent speculation suggests three American League East teams, the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays, could have interest. The Orioles reportedly contacted the Twins about Morneau in early December, but nothing came to fruition at that point. The Rays look to be in the best position to make a deal in terms of having young prospects to offer, so if they have serious interest at all a deal could get done.
If the Twins do look to trade Morneau, and that possibility is definitely in play, I think they need to wait until closer to the trade deadline in July. He has said he is at a better point physically this offseason than he was in the two previous offseasons, so that bodes well for a rebound and gives him a good chance to significantly boost his trade value with a strong start to the season. Dealing him right now or prior to spring training would not precisely qualify as selling low on him, but it seems his value can go a lot higher. Twins general manager Terry Ryan needs to cross his fingers that Morneau stays healthy and be patient here.