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  • 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. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I'm sorry, but why be condescending when it's your point that totally misses the context of the discussion? Victorino is likely a CF and lumping Morneau in the Fielder/Pujols category is just silly. So you have two relevant examples, both of whom don't have the health concerns Morneau does and, in Swisher, more position versatility.

      If Morneau bounces back (and I'm really feeling positive about him) I think he'll have trouble getting more than a two year deal. Which is what the Laroche example I was suggesting was leading to - 2 years 24M with a mutual option. That seems about right for Morneau in a bounceback, I don't expect more than that on the open market.
      Not that it matters much to the context of this discussion, but I'm pretty sure Victorino is going to play RF for Boston.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      Not that it matters much to the context of this discussion, but I'm pretty sure Victorino is going to play RF for Boston.
      You're correct, because of Ellsbury. I think it's safe to say comping Victorino and Morneau just doesn't feel right though, IMO.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I suspect someone will be willing to take on the risk associated with a 3 year deal should Morneau be healthy and productive. It would either result in a bit lower annual amount than what he'd get otherwise, option years, or a concussion clause in the contract giving the team an out should he suffer a concussion in 2014 or 2015.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      I suspect someone will be willing to take on the risk associated with a 3 year deal should Morneau be healthy and productive. It would either result in a bit lower annual amount than what he'd get otherwise, option years, or a concussion clause in the contract giving the team an out should he suffer a concussion in 2014 or 2015.
      The MLBPA would never allow that.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Nice job, calling facts "bunk" does not an argument to the counter-point make. Please try again and attempt to descredit one fact-based assertion presented, if you dare.

      Let me help you with an outline:

      1) Is the team getting younger? Check
      2) Is the payroll on a downward trajectory, as the club stated it would do? Check
      3) Was Smith out when he wanted to increase payroll?Check
      4) Has Ryan- shed salary, found replacements and attempted to maintain cash flow?Check
      5) Based on the Twins machinations and potential cheap hole-fillers at positons Justin can play, is Morneau likely to be in on the Twins future plans without a significant paycut? Check

      Have at an attempt at de"bunk"ing, if you can.
      jokin, my dear brother, let'd review the difference between facts and your opinion, OK?

      In the bunk-filled comment I responded to, you set forth two facts:

      1. The team is moving toward a roster of younger, cost-controlled players.
      2. As a result of this, and perhaps other factors which are open for dispute, the payroll is lower this season, which means payroll has declined each of the last two years.

      What's clearly open for dispute is whether the Twins have some evil master plan that is behind these two facts. Your opinion is that they are evil and deceptive. This, jokin, is a FACT in your little world, but it is not commonly regarded as factual. You do NOT have overwhelming evidence of this, or of your other opinions that you consider to be facts, to-wit:

      1. Smith was ousted because he misinterpreted things and thought he had an open checkbook?

      2. Ryan was brought back in ostensibly to shed payroll and generate a positive cash flow?

      3. Morneau will not be part of the future unless he accepts Ryan's "lowball offer"?

      You're entitled to your opinion, jokin, but you shouls expect to get called out when you present them as facts. Because in the opinion of others, this is bunk.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      jokin, my dear brother, let'd review the difference between facts and your opinion, OK?

      In the bunk-filled comment I responded to, you set forth two facts:

      1. The team is moving toward a roster of younger, cost-controlled players.
      2. As a result of this, and perhaps other factors which are open for dispute, the payroll is lower this season, which means payroll has declined each of the last two years.

      A) What's clearly open for dispute is whether the Twins have some evil master plan that is behind these two facts. Your opinion is that they are evil and deceptive.

      B)This, jokin, is a FACT in your little world, but it is not commonly regarded as factual. You do NOT have overwhelming evidence of this, or of your other opinions that you consider to be facts, to-wit:

      C) 1. Smith was ousted because he misinterpreted things and thought he had an open checkbook?

      D) 2. Ryan was brought back in ostensibly to shed payroll and generate a positive cash flow?

      E) 3. Morneau will not be part of the future unless he accepts Ryan's "lowball offer"?

      F)You're entitled to your opinion, jokin, but you shouls expect to get called out when you present them as facts. Because in the opinion of others, this is bunk.
      In regards to:

      A) Thanks for explaining to me what my position is. In point of fact, your fevered imagination and stultifying knee-jerk defense of your cocktail crowd had grossly mischaracterized it- to the point that your posts are becoming a self-parody of the Anti-Conspiracy-Conspiracist. Earth to Birdwatcher- Dr. Evil was a parody-figure and Terry Ryan is not Stavro Blofeld, either. As hard as it is for you to believe in your cloistered world, there are rational Twins fans out there that understand that the MN Twins are a business, and that there are sound reasons for making the decisions that were outlined in Points 1 and 2. Just because some fans might prefer a different direction, it doesn't make them "right" or the Twins FO "evil", come down off your high horse, already. "Other factors open for dispute"? The evidence is clear that high-priced salaries were purposefully being swept from the books- and that FA with actual impact talent were not going to be even sought after, let alone signed. You yourself once stated that you would join me if the Twins failed to make a legitimate effort to acquire legitimate impact SP talent, we all know the result.

      B) Of course, it follows that your next statement is a complete non-sequitur. It's difficult to try to make any comprehensible sense out of this mish-mash, other than an obtusely feeble attempt at be"littl"ing the facts staring at you from straight across the table.

      C) Smith's ouster, soon after his initial vote of confidence from Jim Pohlad has widely been reported to be based on Smith wanting to continue in the same direction concerning the payroll and JP having the final vote. Did you hear something different at an offseason Pohlad soiree'? If so, it's time for you to do some reporting.

      D) Mis-statement of my actual factual statement: To wit, "Has Ryan- shed salary, found replacements and attempted to maintain cash flow?" Yup.

      E) Does anyone- but of course, yourself and the Pauline Kael-esque high brow set- doubt that how the Twins have dealt with almost every pending high-price FA in the past is indicative of how they will behave in the future?

      It is factual that the Twins have ready and very cheap replacements at First Base and DH.
      It is factual that the Twins "play the game" about re-signing their top-dollar players who have matured beyond their arb years- but push below-the-market offers to do so.
      The evidence around the league suggests that the demand for Morneau's services at his existing salary structure is soft and that comparables are earning less- and much less- when there's the ever-looming danger that a soft slide into second base will result in catastrophic and uninsurable injury.

      F) In light of this FAIL on your part, I'm still waiting for your "call-out", (Usually a call-out requires documentable counter-arguments, must have slipped your mind). If you prefer to have your "bunk"mates do your dirty work, have your "others" get back to my "others", brother Twins fan.
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