Reports have surfaced that both Justin Morneau and the Minnesota Twins would prefer to let this season, the final year of Morneau’s deal, play out before discussing a contract extension. That makes sense. The Twins would like to make sure he is injury free before offering him an extension and Morneau would like another year to prove that the former-MVP deserves former-MVP money.
But by doing this, the Twins are essentially parting ways with their veteran first baseman. Lets say Morneau gets off to a hot start, the Twins–who are in rebuilding phase–will surely deal him to a contender for prospects. If he does find the sort of production that earned him the 2006 MVP and the Twins don’t award there’s no way the they will be able to afford a long-term extension. On the other hand, if Morneau’s chronic concussion issues resurface in 2013, I doubt the Twins will have any interest re-signing the injury-prone lefty.
But maybe this is a situation where the Twins should roll the dice a little bit. Signs show that Morneau is slowly but steadily recovering from his concussion issues and it seems unlikely that his career, is in effect, over. He played in 134 games last year–almost twice as many as in 2011. And while his production wasn’t what it once was, he posted a respectable .267/.333/.440 split while knocking in 77 runs. Maybe the Twins should offer him 3-4 years for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million a year.
Best case scenario, Morneau will regain his MVP form and be an absolute bargain for a left-handed slugger. More likely, his production levels off around 20 home runs and 80 RBI/year. But even then, he’ll be a steady, veteran presence in a clubhouse that will be full of young, talented prospects. The Twins can also split his time between first base and DH to help him stay healthy.
All said, Morneau remains a fan-favorite in Minnesota and without a can’t miss prospect at first base, he’s worth keeping around. The Twins, who boast a strong farm system, hope to compete at the big league level come 2014/2015 and it’s safe to say Morneau’s bat will still be an asset come then. Sadly, as it looks now, Justin will be playing in a different uniform as early as mid-summer.