When the Minnesota Twins completed the trade Saturday to send Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates, it was among the darkest and saddest days in team history. Morneau was one half of the productive M&M boys along with Joe Mauer and now, those days are now a thing of the past. The trade of Morneau signals a start of a new era in Twins’ history; in my opinion, it is not a bright era nor does it offer much promise outside of prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.
If you look at the trade from solely a baseball perspective, it makes little sense. The Twins do not have a viable backup to inherit first base with Morneau gone, the team does not have a run-producing bat to replace Morneau’s production in the middle of the lineup—despite how meager it may be—and the team has lost one of the most dedicated players in franchise history. The Twins now stare at the possibility of having someone from the group of Mauer, Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe inheriting full-time first base duties; those prospects, in my opinion, are pitiful. Mauer belongs behind the plate or at first base full-time; however, if Mauer goes to first base, the Twins now have a vacancy at catcher as well. Thus, a move of Mauer to first would be an addition by subtraction which should not inspire confidence to Twins’ fans and executives.
If you look at the trade solely from a fan’s perspective, it also makes little sense. Had the Twins acquired someone who actually could have contributed to their future—such as a low-level prospect with high upside—this deal would have been looked upon more favorably; however, since the Twins are only receiving a mediocre and journeyman outfielder in return—along with a player to be named or cash—for a former franchise cornerstone, it makes sense that fans would be more than a little upset.
The Twins have traded away productive players like Francisco Liriano, Johan Santana, Delmon Young and now Morneau for cents on the dollar; rarely have they received any players in return that can inspire confidence of the team’s future direction. Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan used to make a living on trading away productive players during their prime for some of the game’s youngest, and relatively unknown and talented, prospects. These moves were celebrated and it helped Ryan become one of the most revered general managers in all of baseball. After this latest trade in which the Twins have appeared to receive very little in return, Ryan’s vision and capabilities must now be called into question.
I know I am personally very biased and bitter about the way the Twins season has gone and the way the Twins dealt with Morneau over his last few months with the team. Morneau actually wanted to be part of this organization and he wanted to be part of the solution to turning this team around. Few players at this stage of their career would ever agree to that; Morneau actually sought it out. He approached the team numerous times this season about a contract extension, only to be rebuffed. For a player who has done so much and meant so much to a franchise and with no viable replacement waiting in the wings, you don’t treat players like Morneau like that. That is simply bad business and it sends the wrong message as an organization.
The Twins will now be in need of a first baseman to go along with their constant need for starting pitching and with no replacement likely to come internally, the team will have to sign a free agent to hold down the fort until the next internal option presents itself. Guess who will be among the first basemen that the Twins could pursue as a free agent this winter? You guessed it, Morneau; but unfortunately for the organization, they just traded that player away and have reduced the likelihood of Morneau returning. To me, it looks as if the team is operating in circles with no end in sight.
I wish I could say that I was surprised by the Twins trading of Morneau and receiving practically nothing in return. I wish I could say that, but I can’t; the reality is, this is the new norm for the Twins: trading away talent for nothing in return. To quote Motion City Soundtrack, “the future freaks me out”.