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  • Morneau Trade Pits Head Versus Heart

    I expected my head and heart would battle about trading Justin Morneau. But I didn't think that my heart would focus more on the future than the past.

    I expected my heart to focus on Morneau's glorious history with the Twins. If Morneau never plays again for the them (and I'm fairly sure he won't in the near future), he'll still rank fifth all-time in RBI, fourth all-time in slugging percentage and third all-time in home runs, as well as being one of just five Twins to have won an American League Most Valuable Player award. Despite having his career impacted by a concussion problem that cost him at least a year-and-a-half of his prime, he's a sure-fire inductee to the Twins Hall of Fame.

    But in Major League Baseball, a player is more than just his performance on the field. He is also attached to a contract and that contract affects how desirable that player is. In Morneau's case, he was attached to a contract that paid him $14M this year, or approximately $2.3M per month, which is an amount that far exceeded his production for most of the year. And that contract became at least as important as his performance for the last couple of months.

    For instance, two weeks ago Justin Morneau passed through waivers without being claimed by any team. Waivers is process by which a player is offered to each team, and if any team wants him, they can "claim" him. If they claimed Morneau, they risked the Twins just giving them Morneau and his contract, without any compensation. But nobody claimed Morneau. The risk of being stuck with Morneau's contract outweighed the value they expected to gain on the field, even for those teams chasing an postseason spot.

    In that light, my head is telling me that yesterday's trade is a victory for the Twins. They took a player who two weeks ago was passed over by the Pirates and turned him into an outfielder who is roughly equivalent to Clete Thomas and a somewhat promising right-handed reliever. This is a better return than Twins fans could have expected if Pittsburgh was also going to be responsible for that contract.

    "...if Pittsburgh was also going to be responsible for that contract." That's the part my heart is having trouble getting past.

    I'm not someone who rants about the Pohlad's billions and wonder why it isn't spent on my baseball team. I believe in budgets. I believe that a fiscally responsible business is admirable, and in fact necessary for it to truly be healthy long-term.

    But payroll was cut by $20 million this year. And this week they traded away Jamey Carroll for cash. And now the Twins traded away Morneau for a couple of fairly fungible prospects - which allows them to pocket another $2.6M. And my heart can't help but wonder if the Twins were more willing to eat that money - money which they certainly had in their budget already - what they could have received in return.

    The Pirates have some very tempting pitchers in their farm system, even if you overlook the top three names that would have been untouchable for any organization. And it's not like the money wasn't important to the Pirates. They admitted as much:

    The Pirates are covering the $2.265 million remaining on the contract, to "Bob Nutting's credit," [Pirates GM Neil] Huntington said.

    "He allowed us to go significantly over budget," the GM said of the club's chairman. "We appreciate Bob for the financial flexibility to do something like this."
    If it was important to the Pirates, it must have been at least as important to the Twins. But why? They can't spend more on the amateur draft or international signings. They're both capped. They haven't bought any big name international free agents. They had trouble buying free agents last offseason. They even admitted they had budgeted tens of millions of dollars that they didn't spend.

    As a fan, it feels like the money is more important than the product. It feels like my favorite team's GM is more proud of the cash he saves ownership than the team he puts on the field. And it feels like trading away Justin Morneau was more about saving a few million dollars than trying to build for the future.

    So while my heart misses Morneau and what he did, what is really troubling it is the future. Are Terry Ryan's priorities in the right place? Is he ever going to be able to use the revenues that Target Field has provided. Does he fully understand the limits he faces when trying to spend money to build the farm system?

    That's the battle that my heart is waging right now with my head. Despite my head's best efforts, my heart is winning.
    This article was originally published in blog: Morneau Trade Pits Head Verus Heart started by John Bonnes
    Comments 49 Comments
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      Nice article!! Truth is this organization is doomed as long as GM Terry Ryan is in charge! Nobody sang the praises of Terry Ryan higher than me. I debated everybody while Bill Smith was in the GM chair that we just needed to bring back the genius and things would get back to normal in Twins Territory. I have no problem admitting how wrong I was. There is no doubt in my mind that Ryan is responsible for all those bad years (2007-2011) while Bill Smith was in charge. Not only did Ryan recommend Smith for the job, but probably had the final say in most trades that took place. Young, Santana, Hardy, and Ramos just to name a few. These deals basically transformed the Twins entire organization. I'm convinced now that Smith wanted to spend money to re-sign Cuddyer, Kubel, and Nathan after 2011. He was replaced with somebody who would be conservative at best and in the process make the Pohlad family millions while at Target Field.

      What has Ryan done to improve this organization. As of today absolutely nothing!! He signed Carroll, Doumit, and Willingham in his first year back. He waited too long to deal Liriano and was essentially fleeced by Kenny Williams and company. He just gave Carroll away and refused to trade Morneau and Willingham at their peak value. I understand the Twins had to trade Morneau because they were not going to re-sign him. However, once again why not last winter? The reason why is because Ryan thought he was smarter than everyone else. He thought Willingham and Morneau would have monster first half's and he would unload them for top notch prospects. He traded Morneau for absolutely nothing and refused to re-sign him for less. He refused to trade Willingham last year and demanded the Orioles top pitching prospect yesterday. He instead chose to hold on to a 35 year old, injury prone, DH at best, player who is owed $7 million next season. Not to mention Willingham will be taking away at bats from younger players. I guess if it were me, Willingham would have been dealt for nothing and Morneau would have at the very least stayed until the end of the year. However, there is no loyalty in MLB and Morneau took the path well traveled by former Twins superstars. It's really unfortunate that every star player in the last 15-20 players has been traded except for the wonderful singles hitter who is injured yet again. The Twins front office keeps talking about Sano & Buxton. Fans need to remember if they become stars, they will be traded away to save money just like every other big name to come through this town. Last winter every writer kept saying "Why would any good free agent pitcher want to come here when they can pitch for a contender." I guess they were in fact right!! However, the latest Ryan embarrassment is not going to help attract anybody either. The Twins Way used to be respected and admired around MLB, but now it has turned into a punchline. Well Done Terry Ryan!!
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Nice article John. Thank you.

      I am actually kind of happy for Justin. I am suddenly a Pirates fan. They have a very good team and Justin will have an opportunity to play with McCutchen, one of the most exciting players in the game.

      Some are saying there is a very good chance they will bring Justin back. Unless Parmelee or Colabello step up that might be a really good idea.
      Who knows?

      For now, go Justin! Go Pirates!
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      Justin is probably the only Twins player in the last few years that I'd like to shake hands with and thank him for his time. I thought it would be easy to let him go but now that its over it seems like a waste. Seems like we got nothing in return.
      Thank you Justin! Lots of memories that i wont soon forget!
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      This argument that "something is better than nothing," I'm not sold. Its like poker. You know the guy asking to color down his only $100 chip for five $20 chips? That guy is losing. I don't think baseball is a lot different. Give up 1 player and receive multiple players in return, and there is a good chance that you're only watering down your roster, and losing.

      More 1:1 player trades, a la Span. Bundle guys with cash if it sweetens the deal, a la Pierzynski. If you can't color up, then just keep the guy. The Twins could have offered Morneau an extension like he asked for. I'd rather play that lottery than these 24-30 year olds with no MLB track record. At the very least, it doesn't clutter your roster as much.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Good Article John. I also wonder if this is a part of the plan to blow the team up. Go young for 2014, then find the right veteran pieces for a 2015 push into respectability. I will miss Justin Morneau for all of the nostalgic reasons, and I wish Justin well.
    1. scottsilvi's Avatar
      scottsilvi -
      @Fanatic Jack ... you seemed to be arguing both sides of the debate there. On one hand the twins are mega cheap and concerned only with money. On the other hand, he chose to "hold on to a 35 year old, injury prone, DH at best, player who is owed $7 million next season."

      If the intent was to actually slash salary, don't you think he would have handed over Willingham for a bag of balls?

      Until this organization can either develop front-line starters, or is willing to put out some money for them, we're doomed to mediocrity anyway (and yes, getting swept by the Yankees come playoff time is mediocrity).
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I am going to give Terry Ryan the benefit of the doubt on the budget thing till I see what he does when we are eminently competitive again. I am not convinced the 2 million or so would get us a much better prospect, as I am sure Pittsburg wants to hoard as much talent as they can. Right now we have few contracts burdening the team and a wave of talent coming. The team will need complimentary pieces. If he goes all cheap then, I will have a problem. But one area Geek, that TR can spend money on is international free agents. There is a Japanese pitcher and a Cuban SS that the Twins are linked to. I hope to see at least 1 of them signed by us.

      With the draft being more about scouting then dollars for that competitive edge then having TR around is going to be huge as he manages his scouts and drafting philosophy's well. Target Field was never meant to make the Twins big spenders and with Teams revenue's going up with the new TV contract, players are going to get more expensive so we still need some restraint.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      I have had some of the same questions you cited in the article. Many people on the boards have been waiting for TR to prove he will spend some money especially on pitching. We all want to believe TR has a plan and will open the wallet at the right time for the right guy. It seems like that time should be close as many of our prospects should be ready for MLB by 2015. He needs to get things in place especially pitching soon or all his work is for nothing.
    1. Roaddog's Avatar
      Roaddog -
      I dont think there was any market for Morneau last winter. Heck, there wasnt a huge market for him at the end of July.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I can't speak for anyone else, but it has been apparent to me for some time now that the bottom line is more important to the Twins than the win column.

      I understand that ultimately, the Twins are a business, but the focus on profit still rubs me the wrong way. Not only does it seem to me somewhat morally bankrupt, considering we pay for their operating facility, but ultimately it seems shortsighted in a business sense too. They risk serious loss of revenue as the newness of TF wears off and revenues return to being driven by the product on the field.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Thinking about the Twins being not willing to pay Morneau's salary sends me into conniption fits. It's just crazy, and I agree with the sentiment, John. If the PTBNL is not a Pirates top 20 prospect, I will be very disappointed in this trade. $2.3 million is about the right amount for a decent prospect.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      oooppppsssss, didn't see the PTBNL was already named. Well, it isn't a good return at all then. A 27-year-old reliever to come in and serve as a Burton replacement isn't terrible given the money involved, but Dakota Watts is not that far removed from this and he is a year+ younger.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Though I should say that the problem with the trade isn't Welker, it's Pressley. There are so many other players in the Pirates org. that are worthwhile to take a look at. TWO fill-in players, only one of which is really going to be deserving of any MLB time is not good.
    1. Lonestar's Avatar
      Lonestar -
      And my heart can't help but wonder if the Twins were more willing to eat that money - money which they certainly had in their budget already - what they could have received in return.
      It seems like your heart is very much in synch with your head.

      My head and heart are in agreement. This is the same Terry Ryan who thought his greatest trade was Scott Erickson. Not a good thing.

      I don't see a master plan.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      "As a fan, it feels like the money is more important than the product. It feels like my favorite team's GM is more proud of the cash he saves ownership than the team he puts on the field. And it feels like trading away Justin Morneau was more about saving a few million dollars than trying to build for the future."

      BINGO +++++++
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      And Justin now saying he actually feels excited again.....I wonder if Ryan even cares about how bad they are right now. There is no evidence he does. And yes, it certainly appears that money is more important than anything else, but apparently it is lazy to say that.....

      I'm happy for Justin, I would be happy for anyone that gets out from under this awful team, frankly.

      I find it odd they are all excited about a fungible middle reliever, given the quality of their MLB and AAA pitchers, they are flush with those already. Mediocre/bad starters turn into decent middle relievers. All they got here is two older players to clog the 40 man roster.

      This is how I feel, and there is no right or wrong here, it is ok if others feel as if Ryan and the Pohlads care.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      The only master plan I can see is maximizing profits. Finding that area where they win enough to keep the b*tts in the seats (and have 1 or 2 players whose jerseys sell well, etc). while keeping payroll and other costs as low as possible.

      That's the end game. Being good enough to keep the profits rolling in but not being willing to take enough risks to produce a team that can win more than the division.

      Some things never change.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Is it a correct assumption that the Pirates would have happily given up a good prospect in return for 2 million? That doesn't make baseball sense. Their front office know the cost of developing and acquiring a good prospect.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      Is it a correct assumption that the Pirates would have happily given up a good prospect in return for 2 million? That doesn't make baseball sense. Their front office know the cost of developing and acquiring a good prospect.
      Maybe not a good one, how about a better one?

      I think this was the best move for all parties, hopefully Morneau comes back next year.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      We don't know either way, what we can be pretty sure of is that Ryan was not willing to eat the salary anyway, so it does not matter what teams would have given up. We have over a decade of evidence to support that conclusion, and numerous quotes (including from the manager) that money was an issue. Some people choose to believe that isn't true, others trust that Gardy and the media (who love Ryan, so why would they lie) are telling the truth, money was an issue, and the Twins would not eat any.
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