As far as contract years go, I think it’d be pretty fair to say that Justin Morneau hasn’t had the greatest.
Sure, the 32-year old he’s doing his fair share of work in trying to rebuild his value on the free market, slugging an impressive .527 with a whopping eight homers over 119 PA in August, but you don’t have to look too much further than his .250/.294 split in the same span to know that it might be too little, too late for the first baseman.
As unfortunate as it may be for the former All-Star, however, it could play out to the Minnesota Twins‘ favor.
See, the narrative for this season had always been that 2013 would likely be the last campaign for the Justin Morneau/Joe Mauer dynamic duo in Minnesota. Even if he were willing to take a significant paycut from the $14 million that he’ll be paid this season, the name value and pre-concussion potential alone might generate a multi-year offer from another team (would a team venture to the three-year territory?) that simply wouldn’t make much sense to the Twins.
In fact, the former MVP might not even be with the team by this time tomorrow if the intensifying rumors about a waiver deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates come to fruition.
That’s likely not what Morneau wants, as he’s expressed in staying with the only MLB franchise he’s ever known, and for reasons that are both performance-related and not, the Twins should want to keep one the the faces of the franchise around too … as long as it comes at the right cost.
And while another year of sub-par production in what looks to be a fading career might not be good for the Twins on the field, it might just bring that cost down to something that wouldn’t jeopardize any part of the team’s future.
So it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to give Morneau an eight-figure per season contract (and it’s hard to imagine that he’ll get one, barring the mother of all tears in September) … but what if he was willing to take a one- or two-year make-good deal with Minnesota just to tide them over for the next wave?
It’d have to be cheap — think $4 million per year cheap — but as the Twins are not near contention, it would buy them some time (unless they’re willing to give quad-A Chris Colabello or utility man or Chris Herrmann a closer look at first … which isn’t good for business, really) until their potential new dynamic duo of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton is ready for show and Mauer gets shifted to first for good.
And if that happens to be sometime in 2014? Well, the Twins have some flexibility in moving the veteran Morneau into a platoon role (.824/.539 righty-lefty OPS split), and as the cost isn’t going to break the bank, they should still be able to get plenty of value out of him.
Much of that will depend on how the final month of the season goes for the first baseman, but should he continue along his sub-.300 OBP and .737 OPS ways as he’s done in the season half, his declining value might just give the Twins the impetus and the means to keep him around.