• Position Analyis: First Base

    Likely Starter: Justin Morneau
    2012 Stats: .267/.333/.440, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 63 R

    Potential Backups: Chris Parmelee, Joe Mauer, Jeff Clement


    It’s been so long since we’ve seen Justin Morneau at his best, it’s easy to forget what “his best” even looked like. In the two-and-a-half seasons since his fateful concussion in Toronto, Morneau has shown only the occasion glimpse of elite hitting ability. Beyond the lingering effects of the head injury, which dragged on for well over a year and often prevented him from being able to work out at full capacity, Morneau has dealt with a barrage of dings, nicks and strains to nearly every other part of his body. It's like his voodoo doll fell in a blender.

    For such a sturdily built athlete, the first baseman has had a shockingly difficult time staying healthy. He was definition of durability in 2008, when he played in all 163 of Minnesota’s games, but since then he’s missed at least 27 games every season. Just when it seems like he’s gotten past another major ailment, something else invariably pops up to take a treacherous toll on his performance or sideline him.

    That’s why it’s understandable if you're dubious of Morneau right now, despite the fact that he is – by all accounts – as healthy as he’s been in years, and absolutely crushing the ball this spring.

    One year ago, Morneau was openly pondering the idea of retirement, feeling as though his nagging head and wrist issues may never disappear. Now, he's fresh off a brief but dominant stint with Canada in the World Baseball Classic and his decision to participate in the tourney was significant.

    Entering the final leg of his current contract, this is a hugely important season for Morneau's future; his health and production over the course of the coming campaign will dictate whether he lands a one-year make good or a sizable multi-year deal afterward. That he was willing to forgo the controlled pace in Ft. Myers and compete in a pressure-packed preseason environment signals a high level of confidence in the state of his 31-year-old body.

    Everything he’s done on the field over the past month has helped to legitimize that confidence. In a handful of games played with the Twins, Morneau was locked in, smashing hard liners to all fields and knocking in runs. In 20 at-bats, he tallied three doubles, a homer and eight RBI, bringing back memories of his heyday from 2006 through 2009 when his total of 470 RBI ranked him fourth in baseball, behind only Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.

    While batting cleanup for the Canadians in the WBC, he continued to rake, collecting seven hits (three doubles) in 11 at-bats for a cool .636 batting average.

    Put all the pieces together, and you've got a healthy, confident former MVP who's playing for a contract. If the guy takes you by surprise this year, you haven't been paying attention.

    Of course, to come full circle, it would not be a surprise if health again became a problem for the battered slugger. Nor would it be a surprise if he were traded at some point during the summer. Therefore, depth here is important.

    Chris Parmelee, who will open the season in the outfield, looms as the heir apparent, if all goes to plan. He's in line to replace the veteran at first next year and circumstances could hasten that process, although Parmelee will need to hit.

    Jeff Clement, the former premier prospect turned 29-year-old flameout, could eventually become an option. Chris Colabello, a fellow minor-leaguer journeyman who's had a pretty nice WBC himself, is a long-shot contender.

    But, as is usually the case, Minnesota's system is short on outstanding first base prospects. They're counting on a big year from Morneau, who could become an appealing trade chip while also helping keep the Twins relevant.

    But, as the future of the position is concerned, they're counting on a big year from Parmelee even more.
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Analyis: First Base started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 86 Comments
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      I think that Colabello will be more likely than Clement at this point...
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Twins just added former Cardinal Curt Smith to start, most likely, at New Britain.
    1. Snortwood's Avatar
      Snortwood -
      My hope for this is that Morneau pulls it together and Parmelee hits great and proves he's a first baseman, and the Twins trade Parmelee for another strong young arm and re-sign Justin to another long-term deal. Dudley Dooright belongs in the great white north!
    1. Yoshii's Avatar
      Yoshii -
      It would really be nice if Morneau could pull it together and stay a Twin. Among all the negativity surrounding the Twins these past two seasons, I believe in Morneau. He will get it done this year.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      In my view, the long term view is going to be:

      Morneau vs. Willingham, Parmelee, and Doumit.

      I say that because we are talking about 1B/DH here. Willingham's days in left field are numbered, Doumit is the primary DH, and Parmelee is the "heir apparent."

      Sano is coming within three years, and it is likely to be at 1B. Morneau could move to DH. It could mean, honestly, considering the trade return value between Morneau, on the one hand, and those other three, on the other hand. I would think that Willingham and Doumit could bring back big value at the deadline this year, and Parmelee can still be around at least into the offseason.

      I was all for trading Morneau, but he is recovered from these injuries and is dominant again. The Twins could trade the other three for SS, 3B, and SP in some combo. They are going to be replaceable in Arcia, Benson, Herrmann, and Colabello.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      In my view, the long term view is going to be:

      Morneau vs. Willingham, Parmelee, and Doumit.

      I say that because we are talking about 1B/DH here. Willingham's days in left field are numbered, Doumit is the primary DH, and Parmelee is the "heir apparent."

      Sano is coming within three years, and it is likely to be at 1B. Morneau could move to DH. It could mean, honestly, considering the trade return value between Morneau, on the one hand, and those other three, on the other hand. I would think that Willingham and Doumit could bring back big value at the deadline this year, and Parmelee can still be around at least into the offseason.

      I was all for trading Morneau, but he is recovered from these injuries and is dominant again. The Twins could trade the other three for SS, 3B, and SP in some combo. They are going to be replaceable in Arcia, Benson, Herrmann, and Colabello.
      I like Shane's analysis of this, but wonder if Willingham, Doumit and Parmelee would fetch a decent SS, 3B and SP. I also worry about trading these three players and taking the risk that Morneau gets injured again.

      I am hoping that Morneau gets back to his MVP form. If the Twins are sellers at the trade deadline, I would think that a healthy Morneau might fetch a lot better prospect(s) than the other three combined. And if the Twins are anywhere near contending at the trade deadline, it seems to me that Morneau (and Willingham) should be virtually untouchable -- these are proven players who (along with Mauer) could carry the Twins to the wild card or better.
    1. Blackjack's Avatar
      Blackjack -
      If Morneau plays the whole season with the Twins, and signs with another team in the off season, will the Twins get any compensation in the form of an extra draft pick?? If the answer is yes, I think thats what will happen. TR/Twins get something out of it and Justin ends up being the bad guy for going elsewhere - shades of Tori Hunter.

      Dumaits not getting traded, they like him as a replacement for Mauer, keeps Mauer healthy and on the field.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by Blackjack View Post
      If Morneau plays the whole season with the Twins, and signs with another team in the off season, will the Twins get any compensation in the form of an extra draft pick?? If the answer is yes, I think thats what will happen.
      They'd have to offer him a high dollar qualifying offer, which he probably doesn't turn down, since there's a good chance it would be significantly more than he'd get on the open market.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Fangrpahs has them as the 17th best 1B group.....they are not bullish on Morneau. Also, even if he is back, he's potentially past his prime. That said, I think he's going to have a very, very good year, and be traded. If not traded, I think he signs someplace else. I think this is our last shot to see him, which bums me out. He's a great player, and a great asset in the community.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      They'd have to offer him a high dollar qualifying offer, which he probably doesn't turn down, since there's a good chance it would be significantly more than he'd get on the open market.
      Well, maybe. If Justin OPSes at .800, he'll take the Twins' offer. If he OPSes at .850 or better, there's a chance another team will offer him enough money and years to sway him away from the Twins.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      They'd have to offer him a high dollar qualifying offer, which he probably doesn't turn down, since there's a good chance it would be significantly more than he'd get on the open market.
      It'll be an interesting situation, and it's nice because it keeps the Twins from being forced to move Morneau at the deadline if he's playing well and they're out of it.

      In the event that no one offers up what they're looking for, they can keep him and give him a qualifying offer during the offseason. He either turns it down to look for a multi-year deal, in which case the Twins move on with their plans and get an extra draft pick, or they get him on a ~12M one-year deal for 2014. I'd take him back on those terms.

      Of course, this is all predicated on Morneau having a good year, which is why his production this season is quite important to them.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      In my view, the long term view is going to be:

      Morneau vs. Willingham, Parmelee, and Doumit.

      I say that because we are talking about 1B/DH here. Willingham's days in left field are numbered, Doumit is the primary DH, and Parmelee is the "heir apparent."

      Sano is coming within three years, and it is likely to be at 1B. Morneau could move to DH. It could mean, honestly, considering the trade return value between Morneau, on the one hand, and those other three, on the other hand. I would think that Willingham and Doumit could bring back big value at the deadline this year, and Parmelee can still be around at least into the offseason.

      I was all for trading Morneau, but he is recovered from these injuries and is dominant again. The Twins could trade the other three for SS, 3B, and SP in some combo. They are going to be replaceable in Arcia, Benson, Herrmann, and Colabello.
      Are you basing that off last season, or are you basing it off a handful of ST and WBC AB's?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      I think the continued development this summer of our near-MLB OF prospects plays the biggest role in determining how they handle Morneau this season and next off-season if he's still around.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      Are you basing that off last season, or are you basing it off a handful of ST and WBC AB's?
      It can't be based on last season because he definitely wasn't "dominant". Therefore, I guess in this instance, "domiant" is 11 ABs in the WBC and 23 in Spring Training. Who knew?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Well, maybe. If Justin OPSes at .800, he'll take the Twins' offer. If he OPSes at .850 or better, there's a chance another team will offer him enough money and years to sway him away from the Twins.
      You'd think so, but LaRoche just OPS'ed .850 and had to sign for 2 years with his original team at less per annum than the qualifying $ amt. Morneau has had some better top-end years, but their career numbers aren't too far off.

      Saying there's a chance is always a safe statement, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him return -- especially if there's a pick hanging over his head. I have a hard time picturing the Twins let him go if he has a strong/great year.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      or they get him on a ~12M one-year deal for 2014. I'd take him back on those terms.
      I'm not sure what the exact calculations are that go into it, but wouldn't the qualifying offer amount likely go up from the $13M or whatever it was at this year? It does require him to have a good year to even take the chance on offering it, but if it's maybe going to be closer to $15-16M, is that an amount Morneau can possibly be worth on the far side of 30?

      Really, unless he's playing at an absolute peak level again by the trade deadline, he needs to get moved for the best package possible. Morneau producing at 75% of his peak probably won't be worth risking that qualifying offer (leaving him most likely walking with no return), but may have value to a team with injury woes or weak production at 1B looking to push towards a playoff spot at the end of July.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      I have a hard time picturing the Twins let him go if he has a strong/great year.
      I should qualify that with 'assuming he's still here at the end of the season for some reason'. That would take the Twins in contention or else the more likely reality that he'll get traded after the break if he's having a good year.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I believe the qualifying offer at the end of the year (to get a draft pick) will be around $14 mill. If Morneau is still here (I hope he is traded at the deadline for SS/P and Parmalee at 1B and Arcia in RF) that is a lot of money to give him considering concussion history and age in 2014 (32). He would take it.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Statistics don't tell us much about the probability of Morneau having a good year, but the eye test does. He looks completely different than he did last spring.

      Making him a qualifying offer of roughly $13M is intriguing. The risk is minimal for the Twins. Maybe he says yes and then gives you only $5M of value. Or he walks and fetches you a high draft choice. It puts the Twins in a good position: if they don't get overwhelmed by a trade deadline offer for either Parmelee or Morneau, they can sit tight.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Statistics don't tell us much about the probability of Morneau having a good year, but the eye test does. He looks completely different than he did last spring.

      Making him a qualifying offer of roughly $13M is intriguing. The risk is minimal for the Twins. Maybe he says yes and then gives you only $5M of value. Or he walks and fetches you a high draft choice. It puts the Twins in a good position: if they don't get overwhelmed by a trade deadline offer for either Parmelee or Morneau, they can sit tight.
      I'd say the risk is that you pay him $13 million and then he gets another concussion and gives you zero production.
      I'd move him for any halfway decent prospect they can at the deadline.
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