With Justin Morneau’s recent power surge over the past few days in Chicago—which stands at three homeruns, at the time of this writing, including a grand slam, three-run homerun and a solo homerun—many fans are again starting to speculate Morneau’s trade value and the probability of him being moved during the waiver-deal period. While I can understand that this is typical behavior of a team not in position to compete this season, it doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree that Morneau should be traded this season; instead, I continue to subscribe to the theory that the Minnesota Twins should resign Morneau to a two or three-year extension due to the fact that the team has no suitable first base replacement. The fact that the Twins haven’t made a more committed and aggressive effort to sign Morneau is beginning to cost them dearly because the more Morneau’s bat continues to heat up, the higher his price tag is going to become this off-season.
It’s understandable that fans may believe that Morneau isn’t the type of player that he once was and/or he could command too much money this off-season which, in turn, should prompt the Twins to trade him now—and get value for him—rather than lose him for nothing in free-agency. There is no doubt that Morneau isn’t the same type of player he was a few years ago, but he still is a very good baseball player. In fact, Morneau is arguably one of the Twins’ best players—despite his decreased production—and not having him in the lineup would make this dismal season and uncertain future look even worse.
It is for that reason that the Twins should attempt to resign Morneau now instead of waiting around for his trade value or price tag to go up. The type of trade value the Twins could receive in return for Morneau will not come close to equaling the value he gives the team currently. Simply put, teams are not going to be willing to give up much value for a player of Morneau’s caliber this late in the season. The most the team could hope for would be the type of return they got in the Delmon Young trade and that doesn’t improve the team in the short or long-term one bit.
Morneau is currently batting .265 with 14 HR, 67 RBI and a .323 OPB at the time of this article. Including those status, Morneau ranks first on the team in homeruns and RBI’s ranks third in slugging perctage and fourth in OPS. Now you could point to the Twins’ injury problems this season as evidence for why Morneau ranks high in most of the team’s statistical categories, but that doesn’t mean that Morneau hasn’t had a productive year. Instead, it should be evidence as to why he remains one of the team’s best players.
It is very possible that the Twins hang on to Morneau this season and he leaves via free-agency this winter; but I believe if the Twins approach him with a fair offer—in the range of five to eight million a year depending on how well he finishes the season—and continue to discuss a contract extension with him this season, Morneau will stay with the team and continue to be a productive player until the Twins find a legitimate replacement at first. The Twins will be able to offer Morneau his best chance at playing a significant role during the later years of his career and they do have a highly rated farm system that should improve the big-league club immensely over the next few years; but at the end of the day, the ball will remain in Morneau’s court. He must decide if he wants to remain a Twin his entire career and be part of this team’s turnaround or if he wants to bolt to a contender and spend his last few years chasing a title. Joe Nathan chose the ladder option and there is a chance Morneau could do the same; but if the team is proactive in signing Morneau now, rather than later, this scenario may not have to happen.