Entering the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Twins, Justin Morneau certainly has a lot to play for. Entering the year, a lot of question marks circled around Morneau asking if he had anything left in the tank and if he would be in Minnesota to see the end of the season. While many of those questions were unable to be answered during the off-season and first few weeks of the season, one thing is becoming glaringly clear to me as I watch the Twins night in and night out: Morneau deserves a contract extension.
When Morneau was asked this off-season if he would want to discuss an extension with the Twins this season, Morneau deflected questions about signing an extension and instead left the door wide open that he likely will test free-agency. He mentioned, and his demeanor indicated, that the past couple of losing seasons were starting to get to him mentally and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to spend the twilight years of his career on a rebuilding team. No offense to the Twins’ organization, but Morneau wanted to win and he wanted to win while he could still be a major contributor.
Over the first few weeks of the season, all indications pointed to Morneau having a bad year and some started to question his value to the franchise and also on the open market. Entering May, Morneau was hitting .253 with two HR and 11 RBI over 87 at-bats in 22 games. Since then, Morneau has gone on a tear by hitting. 375 with zero HR and 17 RBI over 48 at-bats in 13 ballgames and is currently leading the league in RBI for the month of May. While the power numbers, specifically the homerun totals, are a little disheartening, Morneau certainly is proving yet again that he can be a dominant run producer in the middle of a lineup.
Numerous analysts and fans have stated that once the Twins fall out of contention, the team will likely move Morneau for future pieces. While this makes perfect sense for a rebuilding team, I believe signing Morneau to an extension could also have benefits for a rebuilding organization. This season has already shown, in my opinion, that Chris Parmelee is unable to hit consistently at the majors and yet, the Twins have him pegged as Morneau’s replacement if and when he moves on. One of the reason’s that the Twins would likely move Morneau is because he could net them a solid prospect or two in return. Again, that is all true and a great idea, but what good does it do for a team when they have no legitimate replacement? Sure Parmelee could possibly hold his own and put up average numbers, but he has shown no signs of being able to do so over the course of a full season. You then could bring up Chris Colabello, but he has no track record either. Why move a proven run producer and a player who could produce for the next few years—while helping the next wave of talented prospects contend when they come to the majors—simply because you want to accumulate highly touted, but unproven, prospects?
The Twins may be in rebuilding mode, but their future can still be enhanced with Morneau in the lineup. When prospects like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano enter the majors, it would be great to have a solid supporting cast of veterans to surround them with like Morneau and Joe Mauer. This would make the rebuilding process quicker when these top prospects come up to the majors because the team could find more immediate success due to the strong supporting cast waiting for them.
While it might not be the most popular move, I believe Morneau has earned himself a contract extension with his recent performance and his track record within the organization. He deserves to be a lifetime Twins’ player and it would be great to see Morneau finish his career where he started at a reasonable price like 8-12 million dollars a season. The Twins should strike soon and get Morneau at a bargain of a deal before he continues to perform better and raises his price-tag even more. While it may be enticing to deal Morneau for more future prospects, I’d rather see the Twins bank on a proven player instead of taking a chance on unknown commodities.