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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. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      If The Twins Did Not Want Mourneau Now, Why Would The Want Him Next Winter?
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      I hope Justin Morneau goes on a legendary hitting streak, drives the Pirates into the World Series, then wins it for them. Get after it, Justin!
    1. LastOnePicked's Avatar
      LastOnePicked -
      I recall hitting a point in the late 90's when I was just done with this team. I completely walked away for about four or five years. I think I'm there again.

      I'm done with this organization. They have no vision, no leadership, no guts and no heart. Their superstar prospects are going to be great someday, but only after they've left this organization safely behind. Ryan continues to mislead fans, all while serving ownership loyally and preserving the organization's broken structures. He isn't part of the solution, and that should be clear to everyone now.

      I'm mad. I'm hurt. I'm done. I hope this team faces some serious challenges from the remaining fans, and I hope Target Field will soon sit as empty as the hearts and minds of its leadership. Goodbye, Minnesota Twins. I'll be pulling for a future sale of the team, and for better days to come along ... bit I'll be pulling from a distance.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      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.
      Mike, "Money is an issue" cannot be directly translated to "would not eat any". We don't know if the Twins put that option on the table or not. The Pirates could have just as well said 'no thanks, we like our prospects' and here's 2 scrubs.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by LastOnePicked View Post
      I'm mad. I'm hurt. I'm done. I hope this team faces some serious challenges from the remaining fans, and I hope Target Field will soon sit as empty as the hearts and minds of its leadership. Goodbye, Minnesota Twins. I'll be pulling for a future sale of the team, and for better days to come along ... bit I'll be pulling from a distance.
      I'm confused. The Twins have been bad for a while now. Trading Morneau was the last straw?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      First words in my post were "we don't know", jay.....I acknowledged that. Will you and Seth acknowledge that we have lots and lots of data indicating that Twins would not eat salary? Years of how Ryan acts, stories on national media sites saying they would not eat salary? Or am I just supposed to think this is a 15 year coincidence with Ryan at the helm?
    1. ND-Fan's Avatar
      ND-Fan -
      Ryan is only following ownership wishes if ownership wanted to be more aggressive you can bet the Twins would have signed some better free agents. Were on plan of rebuilding that was done in late 90's and early 2000's. We as fans are in for long rebuild again with earliest we can contend is probably 2018 that's if these young prospects develop as they are being sold to us. The problem with this is that Target Field was sold to public that if they would get this extra revenue they would be able to compete and stay competitive year in year out. What it did made ownership to be leader in Mlb baseball on rate of return year in year out. John is right its business for ownership and appears to be very profitable but it doesn't leave a lot for the fan. I guess this why football commands so much more following in Twin Cities its has its up and downs but it doesn't take years to rebuild like baseball and they are willing to spend money to rebuild if necessary if they miss on draft or player gets hurt.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      First words in my post were "we don't know", jay.....I acknowledged that. Will you and Seth acknowledge that we have lots and lots of data indicating that Twins would not eat salary? Years of how Ryan acts, stories on national media sites saying they would not eat salary? Or am I just supposed to think this is a 15 year coincidence with Ryan at the helm?
      The Twins certainly don't have a track record of doing it. However, they also don't have a track record of ever signing decent free agents.... yet everyone here spends an amazing amount of effort talking about that. Why should we rule out the idea that the Twins could cover part of a contract if we don't rule out free agents?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      More importantly, a smart org like the Pirates that has built a strong pipeline probably would have just declined the idea of giving up a better prospect. I'm less likely to place blame for this on the Twins.
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      The only value being 20 million under budget had was to take advantage of teams that were at, near, or over their budget limits.

      It's to bad that 20 million number only increased over the course of the year and was not leveraged to improve the future product.

      Opportunity wasted.
    1. notoriousgod71's Avatar
      notoriousgod71 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ND-Fan View Post
      Ryan is only following ownership wishes if ownership wanted to be more aggressive you can bet the Twins would have signed some better free agents. Were on plan of rebuilding that was done in late 90's and early 2000's. We as fans are in for long rebuild again with earliest we can contend is probably 2018 that's if these young prospects develop as they are being sold to us. The problem with this is that Target Field was sold to public that if they would get this extra revenue they would be able to compete and stay competitive year in year out. What it did made ownership to be leader in Mlb baseball on rate of return year in year out. John is right its business for ownership and appears to be very profitable but it doesn't leave a lot for the fan. I guess this why football commands so much more following in Twin Cities its has its up and downs but it doesn't take years to rebuild like baseball and they are willing to spend money to rebuild if necessary if they miss on draft or player gets hurt.

      Trying to follow the late 90s rebuild model is an awful idea. It brought us a bunch of above average but not great teams. The Twins have not shown the willingness to go for it all... and this is a debate we've had around here and BYTO for the past decade.

      Sure 90 win teams will look good and exciting after years of 90 losses but there's absolutely no reason to always build for the future and never the present.

      Note: I'm not saying we should go all in every year, but you have to pick your spots. Shedding pay roll for the sake of shedding pay roll doesn't fly.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      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.
      John, you are missing some dynamics at play here:

      1) The Twins had already made known that they had a fairly high asking price for Morneau, at least as far back as July

      2) If the Pirates (or whoever) claims Morneau on waivers, they have a limited time to work out a deal

      3) Given their high starting demands were unlikely to be met, the Twins would likely end up pulling him back from a waiver claim, thus preventing the Pirates from ever acquiring him this season, even if they were willing to pay the salary.

      It's a bit of a transactional baseball paradox: the Pirates had to pass on claiming Morneau in order to eventually acquire him.

      I give some credit to TR for creating at least some demand where little probably existed, although the return from the Pirates does not look terribly great.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Also, in regards to eating Morneau's salary: historically the Twins and TR have not sent cash in trades. I guess they did in the AJ trade, but that's about it, I think. So I think it is safe to say the Twins are philosophically opposed to he practice (and generally opposed to paying guys to NOT be on the team, whether by release, injury, etc).

      But trades involving cash happen all the time, which suggests that teams can and do derive value from paying cash in a deal.

      That doesn't address this specific trade, nor does it address how much return value it adds, but I am pretty confident the Twins have left some value on the table in exchange for saving some cash over the years in trades.
    1. Monkeypaws's Avatar
      Monkeypaws -
      It ain't Monopoly money folks. 2 million is enough money to live on comfortably for the rest of one's life. Sure, it's a drop in the bucket of the Pohlad fortune, but you don't just throw money around when you are running a business, and that is the position Ryan finds himself in.

      Unfortunately, unless the Twins are bought by some oil emir, penny pinching Midwest common sense are the rules the Twins GMs are confined to, regardless of what ownership says. IMHO.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      We talk about the Twins going over $100 million on payroll, what, when they got the new Target Field push. The honeymoon is over. Already, they must be planning for smaller crowds next season (of course, buy your season ticket package so you can pay outrageous major league baseball prices for a CHANCE to see the All-Star game).

      I truly wonder what and where TwinsFest will be in 2014 and will anyone care...shades of the summer autograph party.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It just gets so bizarre sometimes at TD. This is another bizarre thread that started out quite admirably!

      I remember something about $3 million being the value for a top prospect, I think (this is me paraphrasing Gleeman, so . . .). Paying Justin's salary would mean that the Pirates get him for free in a win-it-all-now move. It is obvious that they would be willing to part with more if that were the case. There are top prospects, strong prospects, average prospects, weak prospects, non-prospects, and players who are bad in the minors. These two are weak-to-non-prospects.
    1. shs_59's Avatar
      shs_59 -
      Quick trade re-cap in recent history:
      Scale = 1 to 5 stars.



      1. Johan Santana for Gomez, Mulvey, Humber, and Guerra .....1 and a half stars.
      2. Matt Garza, Bartlett, Morlan for Delmon Young, Brendon Harris and Jason Pridie .................................................. ............................... 1 star.
      3. Ramos and minor leaguer for Matt Capps . ....2 stars.
      4. Gomez for J.J. Hardy ................................ 2 stars.
      5. J.J. Hardy for James Hoey and Jacobsen ....... 1/2 a star.
      6. F. Liriano for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez ....... 1 or 2 stars.
      7. Denard Span for Alex Meyer .........................4 stars.
      8. Ben Revere for Trevor May and Worley ..........1 1/2 stars.
      9. Drew Butera for Miguel Sulbaran ....................4 stars.
      10. Justin Morneau for Pressly, and Welker ............. N/A. impcomplete...but leaning 2 stars at best.


      overall grade 18 stars out of a 45 possible stars.

      = EPIC failure.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Let's all take a deep breath
      1. Mauer after the concussion will never be a full time catcher again, his position will be first base.
      2. Morneau was not coming back after 1 and Twins wanted to be sure it was not an option for 10 and 5 rights
      3. Money needs to be spent on pitching. Until the Twins pitch better(for some reason they did this weekend) they will be a losing ball club.
      4. Ryans plan now is probably not to spend significant money until there is a feeling the up and coming hitters are ready, that will be 2015 at the earliest.
    1. Sleestax's Avatar
      Sleestax -
      Can the possibility be that we turn one or both of these players plus another prospect for Giancarlo Stanton?
    1. tcordes's Avatar
      tcordes -
      I guess my concern with all of this is what are the Twins truly doing to get better? Next year the fan is right now looking at another 90 loss season - almost no starting pitching, only 2-4 proven major league players in the field (Mauer/Willingham and maybe Dozier, Maybe Arcia). 3B will probably be Sano? Catcher/Rookie? Assume Mauer at 1B? No legit CF?? Arcia is adequate with potential in RF, SS by committee. So really not looking at much of an improvement - so this is getting tiring to the fans. Trading Morneau was the right thing to do but now what? What is going to be done to at least get back to 0.500?
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