What Should the Minnesota Twins Do If Josh Willingham Gets Off to a Hot Start?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s only fair to wonder if Josh Willingham’s 2012 campaign was a mirage. The 34-year-old left fielder set career highs in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. Some cynics have suggested that the Minnesota Twins should have traded his this offseason while his valuer was at an all-time high. Even optimists though his 2012 was an anomaly.

While you shouldn’t put too much stock into Spring Training statistics, especially for a veteran, Willingham seems to be ready to build off his successful 2012. The nine-year veteran homered in his first at bat and, thus far, is hitting over .500 in spring exhibitions. There’s no reason to think the slugging righty wont pick up where he left off.

And if Willingham appears to be on pace for anther 35 homerun, 110 RBI season, the Twins will have to make an interesting decision. He is signed through 2014 at an absolute bargain of $7 million a year. Because of this, his trade value will be quite high. If Twins GM Terry Ryan can deal Willingham to a contender, it’s quite feasible that he could get a top-notch prospect in return.

But on the flipside, the Twins have several blue chip prospects in their farm system and are hoping to put a competitive product on the field in 2014. With Justin Morneau in the last year of his deal, it’s likely the Twins will have a lack of power in their lineup. If the Twins are indeed ready to compete in 2014, Willingham’s run production and his payroll-friendly contract may be able to push them into contention. However, if 2014 competitiveness is just a pipe-dream, keeping him will be a waste.

So while Ryan is in Florida this Spring Training, it will be imperative that he carefully evaluates his talented group of prospects. If he truly believes the Twins can put a winning product on the field in 2014, he’ll keep Willingham around. If he deals his left fielder this season, it will be a sign that they may be further out than he’d like his fan base to believe.

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