• Top 10 Stories For 2013: #2 Whither Justin?

    “Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask ourselves this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn't, it is of no use.”
    - Carlos Castenada

    It was seven years ago – in 2006 – that Justin Morneau won his American League Most Valuable Player award. That year Brad Radke was still pitching. Johan Santana was still a Minnesota Twin. All that existed of Target Field was the funding. And Justin Morneau was just 25 years old.

    This year, he’ll turn 32. And his six-year contract with the Twins, which was signed a year after he won the MVP, will end. The question is whether that will also be the end of his Twins career.

    ~~~

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    ~~~



    Morneau followed that 2006 season with three-and-a-half productive seasons, never giving anyone cause to doubt that he would finish his career as one of the top Twins of all time. But midway through 2010, which was shaping up to be the best season he had ever had, he slid into second base and his head hit John McDonald’s knee. It gave him a concussion, ended his season and ruined huge stretches of two more.

    By most observations, that seems to be behind him now, as do the nagging injuries and rust that the hiatus also brought. Morneau is in a position to have a healthy, productive season. Whether he will or not is one question. The second is what the Twins will do if he does.

    Worst Case Scenario
    We’ve seen the worst case scenario. It’s the second half of 2010. And 2011. And the first half of 2012. The worst case scenario is that Morneau is hurt – a wrist injury or a back injury or a case of hypothermia from returning to Canada sometime before June. But worst of all would be another serious concussion, which might end his career.

    Best Case Scenario
    The tougher question is “What is the best case scenario?” Obviously it involves Morneau rediscovering his boom-boom stick (as Bat Girl used to call it). But then what? Your answer may depend on whether you want to follow your head or your heart.

    Your head is going to ask whether it makes sense for the Twins to invest in a 32-year-old with a recent injury history that would give even the Canadian health care system pause. This is a team that is actively rebuilding, who has several high-upside prospects approaching the majors, and some of them have their own boom-boom sticks. Is it time for Morneau to make room, just like it was time for Doug Mientkiewicz to make room for him?

    But your heart wants to know why we would cut bait on a player who could still end up as one of the best Twins of all time. Morneau has a decent chance this year of moving up to fourth all-time on the Twins home run list, and third place (Bob Allison) and second place (Kent Hrbek) are within reach before his career is over. Morneau can serve as a bridge from one generation of the Twins to the next, just like Brad Radke did for the last generation. Plus, he lives here. He married here. Can’t we, as Minnesota Twins fans, EVER have nice things?

    Signs To Look For
    Obviously, a lot depends on Morneau. He needs to stay healthy. He needs to be productive. It would be best if he could hit left-handers again like he seemed to over the second half of last season. But he’s not the whole equation.

    Playing about 50 yards behind Morneau on the diamond is “right-fielder” Chris Parmelee. Like Morneau in 2006, Parmelee is 25 years old. Like Morneau, he’s a left-handed hitter. Last year as a 24-year-old, he slugged 17 home runs in just 228 AB in AAA-Rochester, or one every 13+ at-bats. (Morneau slugged 22 in 288 AB – or one every 13 AB – as a 23-year-old.) Finally, Parmelee’s best position, where he started all 62 games in Rochester, is first base. It’s probably fair to suggest that if Parmelee hits well, it would make losing Morneau easier on the Twins front office.

    There is also the Toronto Blue Jays. They’ve coveted Morneau both for his performance and Canadian ties for years. And despite their other expensive roster additions, their designated hitter is still Adam Lind, who hasn’t cleared a 734 OPS since 2009. If they find themselves in the middle of contention and with a black hole in their lineup, why not pay the freight on Morneau?

    But will the Twins listen? It might depend on whether they want to trust their head or their heart.

    You'll get to kick off Opening Day with your free @TwinsDaily Minnesota Twins 2013 Season Preview Ebook. Just add us to your Twitter feed by following us, or tell us you like us (we're pathetic like that). We'll publish a link to the free ebook on Opening Day on both sites.
    This article was originally published in blog: Top 10 Stories For 2013: #2 Whither Morneau? started by John Bonnes
    Comments 35 Comments
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Well, first of all, anybody is available if the price is right. Morneau is one of the Twins core players, and I predict he'll hit well enough to earn at least the minimum $13 million-for-a-year offer that will result in a draft pick if he leaves. The Twins won't trade him at the deadline unless a) Justin is happy about it, meaning Toronto, and b) the Twins get something really valuable in return, like they should have gotten for Santana. Put on your Rays GM cap. What would the Rays get if they had Justin and traded him to another team. If the Twins don't get that kind of offer, then keep him.

      Nobody is forcing us to trade Justin. If Arcia is raking in AAA, the guy who should worry is Parmalee.
    1. Snortwood's Avatar
      Snortwood -
      I agree with Steve Lein. If Miguel Cabrera can play 3B and Prince Fielder can play 1B on a pennant winning squad, the key to defense is for sure NOT your cornermen. Let Sano grow into an adequate third-baseman and the Twins are much better off for it. Just like they are for keeping Mauer behind the plate. Until he proves otherwise, keep him at the hot corner and see if that can work.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Snortwood View Post
      I agree with Steve Lein. If Miguel Cabrera can play 3B and Prince Fielder can play 1B on a pennant winning squad, the key to defense is for sure NOT your cornermen. Let Sano grow into an adequate third-baseman and the Twins are much better off for it. Just like they are for keeping Mauer behind the plate. Until he proves otherwise, keep him at the hot corner and see if that can work.
      You kind of contradict yourself when you say that the key to defense is not your cornermen, but then say that the Twins are much better off if Sano plays 3rd.

      Anyways, I agree he's more valuable at 3B, but my point is if moving him to 1B gets his bat here sooner, then I'm for it.
      From what I've heard, his bat is VERY close to being ready, it's going to be improving on his brutal 3B defense that is going to hold him back longer.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I don't see the rush with Sano. His bat is certainly prodigious but it seems he could still use a little refinement, particularly in the strikeout department (it will be interesting to see how it plays out as he rises in the minors and sees better off-speed stuff). And if it takes 6-12 months extra to see him in a Twins uniform but he'll be at the hot corner instead of first, I think that's worth waiting for.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I don't see the rush with Sano. His bat is certainly prodigious but it seems he could still use a little refinement, particularly in the strikeout department (it will be interesting to see how it plays out as he rises in the minors and sees better off-speed stuff). And if it takes 6-12 months extra to see him in a Twins uniform but he'll be at the hot corner instead of first, I think that's worth waiting for.
      Yeah, if you can guarantee that he'll make it at 3B, and stick long term at 3B, I agree.
      But if his bat is ready, but you hold him back wanting him to stay at 3B, only for it to never happen, and end up bringing him up as a 1B anyway, then all that time was a waste.

      And, I'm not saying he's ready now.
      But I'm hearing he's close , that his bat could be ready as soon as Sept. this year, or opening day next year.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      The Twins should be trying to trade Mauer not Morneau.
      This coming from the same guy who posted this as the top 10 hitters in the AL Central:
      "Take the gloves off
      1)Cabrera 2)Fielder 3)Butler 4)Willingham 5)Martinez 6)Dunn 7)Gordon 8)Morneau 9)Swisher 10)Jackson"

      I simply assumed you accidentally left Joe off. Now I know better. Where is that ignore button?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I don't see the rush with Sano. His bat is certainly prodigious but it seems he could still use a little refinement, particularly in the strikeout department (it will be interesting to see how it plays out as he rises in the minors and sees better off-speed stuff). And if it takes 6-12 months extra to see him in a Twins uniform but he'll be at the hot corner instead of first, I think that's worth waiting for.
      Agree about waiting for him to get better defensively in the hot corner, but that strikeout thing, which is mentioned way too often, is an exaggeration.

      Check this out. Here are the Ks and BBs of the following Twins' power hitters last season. Nobody is complaining that they strike out much:

      Willingham 76 BB 141 K
      Morneau 49 BB 102 K
      Doumit 29 BB 98 K

      And here is Sano's. As you can see he has a better BB:K ratio that all 3

      Sano: 80 BB 144 K

      So, if someone is complaining about Sano's Ks he/she should be complaining about Willingham's and Morneau's and Doumit's....
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      A couple of curious things to me: 1) the assumption that Morneau wants to stay with the Twins. True, the Twins can make things difficult for Morneau ("Lohse him") if they don't trade him. 2) all the hate on Parmalee. He was "Gardyied" last Spring and didn't handle it. Whereas Plouffe also stunk-up the stadium but he was protected (Hughes whose Spring was comparable to Plouffe's got the axe) until his remarkable 5-week run saved him, but Parmalee got demoted. I sure don't recall a similar vitriol against Plouffe last Spring like there is with Parmalee now.

      Returning to Morneau, the Twins are making it appear that they are in a full-rebuild mode, with the intent to become Tampa North--$65MM payroll with one very highly compensated star and the rest youth at minimum or near-minimum salaries. Given that hypothesis, why would the Twins retain Morneau? Until a new core is established (with some experience), retaining Morneau adds payroll, with at best a modest improvement in Wins, but at the expense of earlier draft placement (which may be required to fully rebuild).
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      A couple of curious things to me: 1) the assumption that Morneau wants to stay with the Twins. True, the Twins can make things difficult for Morneau ("Lohse him") if they don't trade him. 2) all the hate on Parmalee. He was "Gardyied" last Spring and didn't handle it. Whereas Plouffe also stunk-up the stadium but he was protected (Hughes whose Spring was comparable to Plouffe's got the axe) until his remarkable 5-week run saved him, but Parmalee got demoted. I sure don't recall a similar vitriol against Plouffe last Spring like there is with Parmalee now.

      Returning to Morneau, the Twins are making it appear that they are in a full-rebuild mode, with the intent to become Tampa North--$65MM payroll with one very highly compensated star and the rest youth at minimum or near-minimum salaries. Given that hypothesis, why would the Twins retain Morneau? Until a new core is established (with some experience), retaining Morneau adds payroll, with at best a modest improvement in Wins, but at the expense of earlier draft placement (which may be required to fully rebuild).
      Really, I havent seen any of this vitriol towards Parmalee.
      I've seen mostly optimism regarding him, in fact I think even a little bit too much of it.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Thrylos, there is a difference striking 144 times in in low A ball and doing it at the majors. It is also fair to note that Sano only hit about 240 in low A ball as well. No one is doubting that he is a great prospect, I doubt however, that he is anywhere near ready to play in the majors. That could change quickly, like it did with Hicks, but it could take a couple of years as well. Lets see what he does at Fort Myers, after this year, I think we will have a much better idea about whether he can survive at 3B, and how soon his bat will be major league ready.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Agree about waiting for him to get better defensively in the hot corner, but that strikeout thing, which is mentioned way too often, is an exaggeration.

      Check this out. Here are the Ks and BBs of the following Twins' power hitters last season. Nobody is complaining that they strike out much:

      Willingham 76 BB 141 K
      Morneau 49 BB 102 K
      Doumit 29 BB 98 K

      And here is Sano's. As you can see he has a better BB:K ratio that all 3

      Sano: 80 BB 144 K

      So, if someone is complaining about Sano's Ks he/she should be complaining about Willingham's and Morneau's and Doumit's....
      Did you really just compare low A ball strikeout numbers to MLB strikeout numbers?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Did you really just compare low A ball strikeout numbers to MLB strikeout numbers?
      Analysis!
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      A couple of curious things to me: 1) the assumption that Morneau wants to stay with the Twins. True, the Twins can make things difficult for Morneau ("Lohse him") if they don't trade him. 2) all the hate on Parmalee. He was "Gardyied" last Spring and didn't handle it. Whereas Plouffe also stunk-up the stadium but he was protected (Hughes whose Spring was comparable to Plouffe's got the axe) until his remarkable 5-week run saved him, but Parmalee got demoted. I sure don't recall a similar vitriol against Plouffe last Spring like there is with Parmalee now.

      Returning to Morneau, the Twins are making it appear that they are in a full-rebuild mode, with the intent to become Tampa North--$65MM payroll with one very highly compensated star and the rest youth at minimum or near-minimum salaries. Given that hypothesis, why would the Twins retain Morneau? Until a new core is established (with some experience), retaining Morneau adds payroll, with at best a modest improvement in Wins, but at the expense of earlier draft placement (which may be required to fully rebuild).
      I think the assumption on Morneau is based on him him seeming pretty happy and settled here and never showing much desire to play anywhere else except in Canada. The relationship with Morneau & the team & the fans has always been good. It's a pretty reasonable assumption.

      I'm usually the first to put Gardy on the spot about how he handles young players, but in Parmelee's case I'll take him off the hook: Chris hadn't played a single game in AAA until last year, so sending him down after he struggled in MLB made perfect sense. I don't see a lot of "hate" for Parmelee, but there is some healthy skepticism. Personally, i think he's going to have a very nice year, but YMMV.

      The Twins are definitely in rebuild mode, but your analysis of what they will spend in the future is pure speculation. I don't see them ever becoming big players in free agency as long as TR is in charge; it seems pretty clear that he thinks that's where teams overspend and you're better off hoarding your resources for your own guys over getting a splashy FA. But there's no reason to believe that the Twins won't push the payroll over $100M again if they're in a position to contend. If Morneau is playing well and is healthy, I think they'll at least try to re-sign him assuming they aren't blown away by a trade offer.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Morneau now has the tag "injury prone" and he is probably one knock on the head from retiring from baseball. How on earth can a team in rebuilding mode re-sign him? The Twins are unerring in going for less since Ryan has returned to the helm. Paying Parm and Arcia a half million each is pretty cost effective compared to Morneau making 14 Million per season. If the Twins can get something for Morneau at the deadline, I'm pretty sure they'll take it. Don't look for them to sweeten the pot by eating some of his salary. Do I agree with this? No, but it isn't my money.
    1. Rock65's Avatar
      Rock65 -
      If he is traded on the last year of his contract with possible concussion concerns what will we get in return. VERY LITTLE! if he stays healthy and has a respectable year and he is willing to accept a contract that is reasonable to the questions around him, I think he should be resignedl
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