It was the second big trade of the offseason for the Minnesota Twins, and the second concrete indicator to the league and to fans that General Manager Terry Ryan is looking beyond 2013. Indeed, it was the second time in which a trade likely made the Twins worse for the 2013, instead of better.
Which is odd, because this is a great trade. Ben Revere has plenty of value, but was not without question marks and could be replaceable as early as the second half of this year. The pitchers the Twins received in return
, Vance Worley and Trevor May, are also not without question marks, but they’re exactly what the Twins needed to get – young, cheap pitching that can contribute in the majors.
But the Twins offseason has seemingly pivoted since the TwinsCentric interview with Terry Ryan
. If the focus for the organization is not on 2013, then what does the future hold for Justin Morneau, who becomes a free agent following this season? Let’s see have a looks at the pros and cons with which the front office might be wrestling…
Pro: 2013 is toast….
Con: ….but you might still want people to come to the ballpark.
As starting pitching free agents are snapped up, the Twins are increasingly unlikely to compete in 2013. But the Twins are also just starting their fourth year in their new stadium, have the All-Star Game coming in 2014, and are looking to rebound soon after with the prospects that are brimming from their minor leagues.
It’s always a lot easier to retain customers than to get new ones. Morneau, besides serving as a veteran presence in the clubhouse for new players, can bridge that competitive gap for fans, especially those casual fans who might be more cynical about the future of the team. It doesn’t hurt that he and his wife are well-liked and active in the community. He is more than just another bat – he’s an ambassador at an especially fragile time for the organization.
Pro: He can be replaced by Chris Parmelee….
Con: ….but who replaces Chris Parmelee?
The Twins have a left-handed first baseman in the wings, Chris Parmelee, who launched himself up the prospect charts with a monster season in AAA-Rochester last year. But with both Denard Span and Revere gone, Parmelee already has a spot waiting for him in the outfield. What’s more, the prospect mostly likely to be ready in 2013, Aaron Hicks, is already earmarked to move into center field.
If Parmelee moves to first, that means filling his spot with either Joe Benson, who had a terrible 2012 in Rochester and AA-New Britain, or Oswaldo Arcia, who is only a half year removed from High A-Fort Myers. Both COULD get a shot, and both might if the Twins look at 2013 as a year to invest in youngsters. But neither is a great bet to thrive real soon.
Pro: Teams are looking for big bats…
Con: ….but will be looking for big bats at the trade deadline, too.
There is really only one good first baseman on the free agent market – Adam LaRoche – and he seems to have no lack of suitors. One of them, the Orioles, has already been linked to Morneau in trade rumors, for whatever that is worth. The Twins told reporters not to believe everything they hear, but they said that about trading Revere, too. There is a market for Morneau.
But the market could be there in July, too. At that point, he’ll hopefully have four more healthy months behind him. If he hits like he did the second half of last year, he’ll have a track record to generate plenty of interest. (Hell, if that’s the case, the Twins might even think of extending him.) Finally, he won’t cost his new team $14M, but closer to $5M, making him that much more attractive.
Hmm… speaking of money…..
Pro: He’s owed $14M this season….
Con: ….but the Twins aren’t going to spend it anyway….
Pro: ….unless they use it to pay Morneau on his new team.
The biggest single reason to consider trading Morneau this offseason was to free up $14M to spend on starting pitching. Even if the Twins traded Morneau for nothing, the $14M would have been enough to get a top flight pitcher, like Dan Haren, who signed a one-year deal this week for less than that.
But now, that $14M likely isn’t leaving the Twins coffers. Frontline starting pitching isn’t just expensive – it’s expensive long-term
. Ryan fears giving players contracts that are one or two years longer than is sane, and it appears that will be the case for the majority of top pitchers remaining. At this point, it’s debatable if the Twins are going to spend the $20-30M we thought they would. An extra $14M isn’t going to help.
But on the third hand, this would free up the Twins to make the kind of trade that (to my knowledge) they have NEVER done. They could trade away a big contract, but pick up a chunk of the cost for an excellent prospect. The Orioles might not be willing to give up much for a $14M Morneau. The might give up a tremendous amount for a $10M Morneau.
So which way do you go? To me, the path isn’t clear, but the answer is. The answer? “He’s available, for the right price.” That’s what the answer has been for the better part of six months now, and the price has been too high. With the Twins new focus on 2014 and beyond, I won’t be surprised if some new customers don’t stop by to see just how available Morneau might be.