It can be tough to know what to do with a player in the final year or two of his contract, and the Minnesota Twins have been no stranger to that with first baseman Justin Morneau. Add in the injury issues that plagued him over the last few seasons, and he surely needed a big 2013 season to bolster his potential trade value, assuming general manager Terry Ryan wants to pursue that avenue.
Morneau has remained healthy this season, which is a huge positive, but he went nearly two months without a home run and has just three total on the season to this point. That said, he does lead the Twins with 42 RBI and has performed well with runners in scoring position (.324 entering Thursday) to help overcome a lack of power (.382 slugging percentage).
The days of Morneau hitting 30 home runs in a season, something he has done three times in his career, are most likely over. But the production he has shown should not be overlooked, and as the July non-waiver trade deadline gets closer other teams may show interest in him. With that in mind, is there a team out that there now finds themselves in dire need of a first baseman?
Despite injuries to multiple key players, the New York Yankees have remained a contender in the American League East (42-36 after Thursday’s loss to the Texas Rangers). First baseman Mark Teixeira missed the start of the season after injuring his right wrist during spring training, and he will now undergo season-ending surgery on the same wrist after playing just 15 games this season. Lyle Overbay, his expected full-time replacement, is hitting .236 with nine home runs and 34 RBI this season after going 0-for-3 on Thursday.
Morneau and Overbay are both left-handed hitters, which may automatically limit the Yankees’ interest. But Morneau has been discernibly better against left-handed pitching (.256 batting average this season; .186 for Overbay), and he has seven home runs and a .458 batting average (22-for-48) in 13 career games at the new Yankee Stadium.
In terms of potential return in a trade, pitching should be on Minnesota’s radar. In what could be called a case of good timing, Phil Hughes is slated to start against them at Target Field next week. That will give them a close look at the 27-year old, and a move out of New York may do him a lot of good.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.