The struggles of the 2013 season still cannot seem to escape Josh Willingham. On Tuesday it was revealed that Willingham would be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Willingham had been hampered by knee problems over the past few weeks and his productivity on the field suggested that something was wrong. The Minnesota Twins, at this time, believe that the injury will not require surgery and that Willingham will instead have the meniscus repaired during an off-season procedure which means Willingham is expected to be back in the lineup after his time on the disabled list is over.
While the fact that Willingham was not lost for the season may be the one silver-lining coming out of this situation, the fact of the matter is that Willingham’s trade value and tradability are now seriously in jeopardy. Willingham’s tradability was never in question at any point during this season, but the value that the Twins would receive in a deal for Willingham has varied greatly this season due to his production, or lack thereof. On the season, Willingham is hitting .224 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs and a 0.4 WAR over 70 games. While those stats are certainly below the pace and production that Willingham delivered last season for the Twins, they still represented a large portion of the middle of the Twins’ batting order.
In Willingham’s absence, Aaron Hicks has been recalled to fill in after completing a rehab assignment. While Willingham is out, you can also expect to see a lot of Oswaldo Arcia and Chris Parmelee starting in the corner outfield spots. This will be a great opportunity for both players to receive some added playing time, while also giving the Twins a realistic look at what life may be like if Willingham is dealt at some point this season or in the off-season.
The big question that the Twins must ask themselves is this: when Willingham does return, what can he give us? A torn meniscus is no minor injury and it certainly will hamper his ability to play in some fashion; whether or not it hinders his ability to contribute is to be determined. In my opinion, unless Willingham can play every day in the outfield without discomfort, he should be shut down. His trade value isn’t going to get any better if you trot him out there at below 100 percent; however, if you bring Willingham back when he is healthy—whether that be this year or next—you can still somewhat salvage his tradability and trade value. That may mean that the Twins keep Willingham until next season—when they could still presumably trade him and get a similar or better return to what they would get if he were healthy—but it would also allow Willingham to heal up and perform better next year, which would enhance his trade value immensely.
The loss of Willingham will certainly sting in the short-term as the team will miss his production in the lineup, but fans and the team must also use this opportunity to see how the lineup, and youngsters like Arcia and Parmelee, hold up without Willingham in the lineup. If things go well, you can expect Willingham to be gone in the near future; but the fact that the Twins won’t get as much as they deserve—or could have gotten had they traded him earlier—in return for Willingham will certainly be a tough pill to swallow when the time comes.