5 Effects of the Justin Morneau Trade
5 Effects of the Justin Morneau Trade
With the Justin Morneau trade a day in the books, it’s time to look back at the trade—emotions aside—and analyze the wreckage that is the Minnesota Twins. The team has obviously lost their clubhouse and outspoken leader and for a team loaded with young and inexperienced players, this could be a time of major transition for the franchise. Half of the M&M boys of Morneau and Joe Mauer still reside here in Twins’ Territory, but Mauer is still hampered with concussion symptoms and his return this season is questionable at best.
What Morneau gave to this team is both measurable and unmeasurable. Sure you could look at his statistics and awards and find a tangible number that represents how valuable Morneau was to this franchise, but his leadership, impact on the players around him and work in the community will be something that is difficult to quantitatively measure. At any rate, Morneau’s departure signals a changing of the guard for the Twins this season and next season as well. Is there a chance the Morneau returns via free-agency to end his career in a Twins’ uniform? Yes, but that is difficult to know at this point simply because it is tough to predict how Morneau will react to teams bidding for his services this off-season.
In terms of this season and next season for the Twins, what effects does the Morneau trade have on the franchise? I have compiled a list of five effects that the Morneau trade has had—or will have—on the franchise. These effects are based on current projections and the state of the team as of September 1, 2013.
5. Lack of Leadership
Morneau was the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse and it wasn’t even close. Mauer’s temperament and history have indicated that he is a player who prefers to lead by example. So if you look at the Twins team as currently constructed, who stands out as a player who is going to step up in a leadership role in Morneau’s absence? Josh Willingham will likely be gone by the end of next season at the latest so he is unlikely to step up and none of the pitchers on the staff—outside of maybe Glen Perkins—have shown the ability or desire to lead. It’s possibly that the leadership now will fall to a player like Brian Dozier and if that’s the case, prepare for another long season in 2014 while the team adjusts to a new leader in a new role.
4. Twins Now Missing a Run-Producer in Middle of Lineup
With Willingham, Mauer and Morneau supplying the most consistent production in the middle of the Twins’ batting order, the new responsibility to drive in runs will have to fall to a player like Oswaldo Arcia. Willingham and Mauer have been consistent options, but they haven’t been healthy enough to provide much insurance to a punchless lineup. It will now be Arcia—or another youngster’s—responsibility to pick up the slack in Morneau’s absence.
3. Team Defense Again Unstable
Last season, and over the last few years, the Twins’ team defense has needed vast improvement; however this year, the team performed much better. A large reason for the team’s strong defensive play this year can be attributed to Morneau who is one of the better defensive first baseman in all of baseball. Numerous times, Morneau dug out terrible throws from the infielders and made tremendous stops to prevent runs—and errors—from occurring. Without that stability at first base, the Twins will have to now rely on their remaining infielders to play improved baseball defensively from here on out.
2. Decreased Fan Interest
There is little arguing that Morneau was a fan favorite across Twins’ Territory and the fact that Morneau wrote a farewell letter to the team and fans only reaffirms his place among the most liked players in franchise history. With no apparent “big-time” prospect promotions for September, there is likely to be a huge drop-off in fan interest during the last month of the season. Interest may start to increase as the winter months and the hot-stove get fired up, but there may be a significant decrease in attendance and interest over the coming months and a lot can be attributed to the trade of Morneau.
1. Twins Now Need a First Baseman
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. The Twins do not have a viable backup to inherit first base with Morneau gone and 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. Plouffe has been wildly inconsistent and will likely only move to first base full-time if Miguel Sano or Eduardo Escobar is promoted. 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. No matter which way you look at it, there is instability at first base and from all indications, the problem doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.