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Could the Orioles Trade for Justin Morneau?

June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

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The injuries are piling up for the Baltimore Orioles and they have been slumping of late, yet they still remain tied atop the AL East standings through the first 7 days in June. Their is still a lot of baseball to be played and if the Orioles can get boosts from Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis, Zach Britton and Brian Roberts coming back in the next few weeks, they could remain in this thing, and need to consider themselves buyers at the deadline. Now the most important thing is to ensure they aren't completely gutting their farm system for a one year run, meaning for the most part they need to avoid rental players (unless the price is right). While an outfielder would be more preferable for the short term, their real position player needs are at 3B and 1B/DH (with Chris Davis handling the other position). I already profiled a 3B move for the Padres Chase Headley, but the 1B/DH market is a bit more murky. One option that I think is becoming more and more realistic every day is former MVP and four time All-Star Justin Morneau.

I highlighted the Twins plight and why Morneau is on the market last week, but wanted to do a more Orioles centric focus on the idea, and will look at both what he brings to the table and the cost to acquire him.

Why The Orioles Could Use Justin Morneau:

Chris Davis has been pretty productive at 1B/DH this year, with an .826 OPS. That might not first or 2nd tier, but it is solid production, especially in terms of cost. Davis has also been pretty solid in the field, though his best value is probably as a DH. Either way, the Orioles have to upgrade over the production playing opposite of Davis. Nick Johnson and Mark Reynolds have usually filled that spot, and the results haven't been pretty.

Now at first glance Morneau doesn't look like a major offensive force (though his .802 OPS would be a nice improvement), but that is a little deceiving. While this strays from his career mark, Morneau has essentially become a platoon player these last two years (luckily the strong side of the platoon). Morneau is helpless vs lefties this year with an .094 average and a pathetic .319 OPS, against righties though Morneau is killing the ball, with a .313/.400/.646 slash line. Being a platoon player obviously hurts the overall value, but since teams face RHP's usually over 75% of the time Morneau can bring a lot of offensive production to the Orioles. Now against most lefties it is clear you need to sit him, but this is where a guy like Mark Reynolds (a RH batter) can earn his keep, as he can be the platoon partner for Morneau. It also means that any time a lefty starts, Morneau could be a devastating pinch hitting option, when a righty comes in. For next season the Orioles could at least have some hope that Morneau goes back to being an every day option, given his career numbers vs lefties.

The other thing that is severely depressing Morneau's numbers is playing his home games at Target Field. Target Field is one of the league's better pitching parks, especially when it comes to home runs. For the year Morneau is batting .182/.247/.348 at home and .279/.344/.616 on the road. To further prove the impact of Target Field, take a look at his numbers from 2010, which was Target Field's inaugural year and before the injuries starting impacting Morneau's numbers. In 43 games and 185 plate appearances at home, Morneau hit .316/.427/.487, which are pretty impressive numbers, but compare them to what he did on the road. In 38 games and 163 plate appearances he hit .375/.448/.757 which is just ridiculous, and nearly a .300 point difference in OPS. Despite 22 fewer plate appearances Morneau had 6 extra hits, and 10 extra home runs on the road.

So if you take Justin Morneau from one of the worst hitters parks and put him in one of the best, and severely limit his number of plate appearances versus lefties, the Orioles could find themselves a true impact bat.

What will he cost?

If Justin Morneau is traded by July 31st, he has roughly $21 million owed to him through next year (if he's traded in the next couple weeks add $3 million to that figure). Which is quite a bit to pay for a player who has dealt with injuries recently, seen his production drop, and has basically become a platoon player.

The Twins will obviously point to his home/away splits as a reason why he's worth more, but the lack of current production will be the biggest issue. Minnesota will also probably be okay with kicking in some money, to hopefully increase their return, but with Baltimore being a team that is fairly good financially, they are probably fairly content to mainly take on salary for the Twins.

Assuming Minnesota pays less than $4 million, I think the following trade is reasonable:

RHP Clay Schrader: Schrader is a potential back of the bullpen option, currently in High A. While he has a good ERA and strikeout numbers, his walks are a concern, and what keeps him from being a 'fast mover'. He still could be in Minnesota by the start of 2014, and has some nice closing potential.

RHP Chris Tillman: Tillman no longer looks to be a front of the rotation pitcher, but he does have some value here, despite his struggles in the majors. He's still just 24 years old, and could without a doubt use a change of scenery and a pitchers park like Target Field. For a system that is starving for pitchers, Tillman is a nice cheap upgrade, with the potential to be a solid starter.

1B/3B Brandon Waring: Waring might peak as a AAAA player, but he'd be a nice final piece for the Twins. Minnesota could be looking to dump a number of players, leaving quite a few ML openings. Waring could be a decent stopgap player for them (maybe not as a starter, but at least a bench option) these next few years while they rebuild.

I know this deal looks like a down right steal from the Orioles perspective, but the Twins completely lack leverage in this trade and clearing that money off their books is huge for their rebuild plans.

Will it happen?:

I think this deal(or a similar one) makes sense from both the Orioles and Twins perspective, but the real answer will be does it work out from Morneau's. Morneau has a no trade clause in his contract, and it's unclear if he'd accept a trade to Baltimore. The fact that they are in first place, and if they let him know they are serious about competing next year would probably be enough to sway him.

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25 responses to Could the Orioles Trade for Justin Morneau?

  1. Considering his wife is from Minnesota and his best friend is Joe Mauer I think your going to need a lot to sway Justin to Baltimore. I don't see Justin going anywhere.

    • @Jimmy-

      If the Twins say they don't want him and cant afford him, I would think Justin would want to go to a team that wants to contend and wants him in the lineup

  2. Minnesota would not take Waring he has been stuck in AA for four years and struggles at AAA strikeouts too much Minnesota would want something like Schrader,Bascom,Ryan Adams and Avery for Morneau or Chris Davis,Schrader and Berken

    • @Phillip, you could change some of the pieces around, but I'm not sure if guys like Avery and Davis will be included. Morneau's contract is an albatross for the Twins.

    • moreau is not even worth what the crazy poster was offering and what your suggesting is lunacy for a shell of a former player making that much WAKE UP you get nothing keep him no one wants him

  3. Dean said on June 8, 2012

    I think you're vastly underestimating what Morneau's numbers will look like by July 1, assuming he stays healthy. Being a Twins fan, I've seen him develop and paid close attention to his career, and if he stay's healthy, I'm 90% confident he returns to something very, very close to his pre-injury numbers. Tillman is the only one in that list that is sort of compelling.

    • @Dean-

      Morneau's numbers aren't as much of the issue for the Twins, its the fact that they are looking at a 2-4 year rebuild plan. At which time Morneau is gone and the Twins have nothing to show for it and are just wasting money. Schader is actually probably the best player in that deal as he has the greatest upside, but that is where Morneau's contract and lack of production come into play.

  4. The Twins do not need to trade Morneau nor are they going to try to trade him. He may be available but only if another team is ready to overpay. His concussion and wrist injuries have taken their toll to be sure, but the Twins are not going to just show him the door to make life better for the Orioles. They will demand at least one high value, player or prospect in return, especially a young MLB starter or near MLB ready starter and the Orioles would have to absorb all of his salary. Think Jake Arrieta or Brian Matusz as the key piece in the trade. Morneau remains a high value player to the Twins.

    Tillman might have some value to the Twins as a throw-in but not as a key piece of a trade. Theyt have their own Schrader and Waring type of prospects so neither of them looks appealing.

    • @Jim-

      How about to make life better for the Twins? What does spending the extra $20-25 million on Morneau do for the Twins? The Twins need to add as many prospects as possible, and that is what this deal is about.

    • they shouldn't trade him nobody would want him in his current condition his is finished, sorry but thank you for JJ Hardy he was a Steal

  5. Are you an idiot? This is one of the dumbest trade ideas I have ever seen. I am surprised you didn't throw in a bag of balls and a vending machine.

    • @Chris-

      What exactly do you think Morneau is worth? A platoon player who has major injury concerns and is owed a ton of money. I'm sure teams will be lining up to give top prospects to the Twins.

  6. Are you an idiot? This is one of the dumbest trade ideas I have ever seen. I am surprised you didn’t throw in a bag of balls and a vending machine."

    A better trade than this for the Twins WOULD probably include Waring- a Waring Blender- throw in a Magic Bullet and a Kitchen Magician and I think you might have something. That's still a better trade for the Twins that what has been proposed in this article.

  7. Ian said on June 11, 2012

    Twins won't trade Morneau this year. They dropped 15m in payroll this year and have another 24 coming off next year after opening a tax-funded stadium. Making a salary dump won't go over well. He's also one of the most popular players in team history, the Twins can't trade him for another teams pu-pu platter. They can't get a major return for him this year but if he stays healthy and starts hitting again, he'd have real value next year at the deadline, presuming the Twins would be open to moving him.

  8. Steve – No, the deal is not about adding "as many prospects as possible"! If a deal for Morneau goes down, it will not be for quantity, it will be for one very high level starting pitcher who is either in the big leagues or nearly there and a solid starting pitching prospect. The Twins might bite on a 3B prospect with power at the AA level or better but there just aren't many of those around.

    Morneau's salary isn't an issue (the Twins are now a $100 million payroll team) and Morneau isn't a platoon player. The concussion and wrist injury that cost him so much of the past two seasons seem to be behind him. I have no doubt that the Twins will consider moving Morneau, but not for some team's minor league spare parts as suggested in this article.

    • @Jim- Until Morneau starts hitting Lefties yes he is a platoon player. And this totally is about dumping salary, Why should the Twins maintain a $100 payroll as they are rebuilding in last place?

      Look at what the Astros got for Berkman when they traded him to the Yanks, and he was having a better season, less injury concerns, just an option for the next season, and threw in $4 million .

  9. Steve… oh Steve.

    It pained me to read this article… As a Twins fan I can tell you with certainty that his health issues are behind him. He's been healthy for over a month now. His power numbers are back to Justin Morneau numbers. His defense is solid, as he's played 1B in 20 of the last 23 games. He isn't platooned, and he isn't a concern anymore.

    Tell me, what would you trade for Adrian Gonzalez if his salary were cut (almost) in half?

    • Wait his health issues are behind him b/c he's been healthy for 3 straight weeks? Seriously?? His power numbers vs righties are up to Justin Morneau numbers, his power numbers vs lefties are awful. That is why he is a platoon player. The Twins are desperate and trying to get him out of his funk, but every time a lefty is starting he's costing them runs.

      Do you think a lot of people would be trying to trade for Gonzalez now given the year he's having? No, but guess what Morneau doesn't make half of what Gonzalez makes he makes about 75%, and Gonzalez is at least hitting both lefties and righties, and doesn't have near the injury history. If Gonzalez had the exact same commitment over the next year and a half as Morneau yes he'd bring back more.

  10. Ian said on June 11, 2012

    Steve, I think you're missing the point. You seem to think the Twins have to deal Morneau now b/c of his salary and base your trade scenarios on that. But there is no evidence that the Twins need to cut payroll – as mentioned payroll is down and will continue to go down even if Morneau remains on the roster. Selling Morneau now, for 10 cents on the dollar makes no sense for a rebuilding team. The only thing that gives the Twins is a lowered payroll which doesn't help. It would also harm the Twins by trading away an incredibly popular player for nothing and lower attendance. If Morneau stays healthy throughout the year, his trade value is much better if they need to move him next season. Esp since his salary and health wouldn't be as big negatives next season. There is no reason for the Twins to move him now.

  11. @Ian-

    The Twins payroll went down from the highest point that it has ever been? Why b/c its not sustainable, esp. if the Twins aren't making the postseason and getting that extra money. Right now the Twins are wasting money by having their payroll so high. What did their extra $14 million they spent last year bring them? The 2nd worst record in baseball. They should have done a better job of trading off assets last year (I believe D. Young was the only guy they moved). Now under the old format the Twins knew that for some of the guys they'd get draft pick compensation, but that isn't true going forward, so it is better to save money.

    The Twins attendance is on pace to fall 375K this year, and it is still artificially high due to the new stadium. With another sub-70 win season it could plummet even more. And for the Twins to get to even 75 wins they'd have to go .500 the rest of the way (tech. there are 103 games available so there is an extra game there). This team isn't coming back and contending this year, so they should look to build for the future.

    By clearing Morneau off the books, they save a nice chunk of change, and can invest that in guys who will still be here in 3+ years when the team is ready to contend again. Spending it now helps no one.

    • Ian said on June 11, 2012

      Payroll is based on revenue so this years attendance will help set next years payroll. Twins are 12th in baseball in attendance and will draw somewhere around 2.7-2.8m. That should be enough to cover another potential 100m payroll. And the team has 24m coming off the books after this season, not counting Morneau. So the Twins have no financial need to move Morneau now when his value is low. Esp for a pu-pu platter of AAAA talent.

      Twins have been playing .609 ball since Morneau came back from the DL. If they played like that the rest of the year, they win 85 games. While that's not going to happen, the front office might think that they should hold onto the nucleus they have with Span, Mauer, Willingham, Morneau and Doumit and try to improve pitching in the offseason. If that plan fails, they can always trade Morneau next year when his salary/injuries are less of a concern.

      But in either event, there is no logic – absent some made up payroll concern – to suggest trading Morneau at this point in time.

      • Teams base payroll off attendance projections, not previous years numbers, and their projections for next year are going down. Yes the Twins have $24 million coming off the books (or in that range), but that is without any closer (or any real money invested in the pen), Doumit, or their top 3 starting pitchers. The Twins don't really have any prospects ready to take on any of those roles, so if they want to reload it will cost quite a bit more than $24 million.

      • Not to mention the Twins still have serious lack of talent at 3B, SS, 2B and RF (if Doumit is the DH).

  12. The Twins have a potential super star 3b coming up in the minor league system named Miguel Sano. Morneau isn't going anywhere, unless someone pays out of this world for him.

    • Miguel Sano is a very good prospect, and should be an All-star 3rd baseman, but he's in just Low A right now, and while he's doing well, he's 3 years away from being ML ready (at least). So while the position might be set long term, Sano isn't helping the Twins compete next year like some are suggesting. If the Twins want to be back in playoff contention, they need to find greater production from the position.