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Where Does Morneau Go

by Dan Gunderson

The Minnesota Twins 2013 season has been yet another disappointment for the franchise as they appear to be on their way to a third straight 90 loss season. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that Twins fans and the franchise in general is waiting for 2015 or even the end of next year.

That is about the time we will see the some of the best prospects in baseball, in specific Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, donning MLB uniforms for the home town nine. Knowing this, the Twins will no doubt be looking to get rid of some veterans at the July 31 trade deadline.

A couple of the names that have come up that the Twins may be looking to ship are Justin Morneau and Glen Perkins. Perkins doesn’t make sense to me. The Twins bullpen is solid and the reason we don’t see this is because they are overused.

Perkins is the best in this strong bullpen, he is only 30 years old and he has a very friendly contract situation. You also have to remember that there is nobody out there ready to take over for Perkins. You don’t want to get to 2016 and see your bullpen as a negative. Perkins staying will keep it a positive because it is something you don’t have to worry about moving forward.

That leaves us with Justin Morneau. How many teams would be willing to trade for a 32-year-old first baseman that has lacked power this year? If this were two years ago, not many. However, since Major League Baseball decided to add another Wild Card team, there are more teams willing to take chances to make the playoffs.

The common idea would be Morneau to an American League team so Morneau can platoon between first base and DH. As I started to look through teams that would be in need of a first baseman, I came up with four potential suitors for the Canadian.

The four teams are Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. My assumption with these teams is they will only be looking to get rid of a lower level prospect and the Twins will be looking for a young starting pitcher with potential in return for Morneau.

For the Indians, they are going with Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher at first and Jason Giambi as their platoon lefty hitter at DH.

Morneau makes sense here because you can get Swisher out of playing first base, have a better left handed hitter than Giambi in Morneau and only use Reynolds sparingly. While the Indians would take Morneau in a heartbeat, what are they willing to give up for him?

The Twins are looking for starting pitching and a guy like Trevor Bauer is most likely out of the question since he has already seen MLB action for the Indians and likely will be in the rotation next year and possibly in the bullpen down the stretch for the team this year.

Mitch Brown and Danny Salazer are two names that come up but how long are the Twins willing to wait for these guys to develop. They want a good pitching staff to join the plethora of prospects predicted to be in the 2016 line-up. It is a matter of if Brown and/or Salazer can contribute come 2016.

The Angels seem to have plenty of offensive punch but they love high profile names. They also need a left-handed power hitter to help balance out the line-up. Morneau would be available and could give Albert Pujols, who is dealing with some foot problems, needed days off and let Mark Trumbo play more of the outfield or DH for Pujols when needed.

The Angels have a young 22-year-old named Mark Sappington down in high A ball that I think the Twins wouldn’t mind swapping for Morneau. Sappington is 9-4 with a 3.66 earned run average and 91 strikeouts in 110.2 innings pitched.

The Bronx Bombers are much like the Angels and love to take on names that people recognize. In this case, Morneau wouldn’t be just that but a vast improvement over the Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay combination the Yankees are using.

You also throw in the short porch in right that Morneau would be dealing with at Yankee Stadium and it seems like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, the Yanks don’t have a lot to offer.

One name that comes up is Jose Campos, another A ball pitcher, who is projected by Baseball America to be in the Yankees 2016 starting rotation. He is currently 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 16 starts. He did miss all of 2012 with an elbow fracture.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team I really like. First off, they have a need right now at first base. Garret Jones and Gabby Sanchez are not getting the job done. Morneau would be an improvement in both offense and defense.

Jones can play the outfield and sub when Morneau needs a day off. In return, the Twins could look at a guy like Luis Heredia, an 18-year-old prospect projected by Baseball America to crack the Pirates starting rotation by 2016.

This is perfect timing for the Twins along with the fact that the Twins would have the best chance at resigning Morneau in free agency because the Pirates are the least likely to sign him back. They have a kid in the minors by the name of Alex Dickerson who is the first baseman of the future for the ‘Bucs.

To me, trading to the Pirates makes the most sense for both teams. The Twins will give the Pirates a rental in order for them to try and make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Pirates, in return, give the Twins a prospect with some strong potential.

The Pirates would have no intention, one would assume, of re-signing Morneau since they have a prospect they expect to be their first baseman of the future. They also want to show fans that they intend on making the playoffs, either through the two Wild Card sports or winning the Central Division.

It would be sad to see Morneau go but this is the situation the Twins are currently in and they have to play the seller in this year’s trade marker. Hopefully, a small move now will have a large impact later.