Justin Morneau is in the 10th year of his Major League career, and in the final year of his contract. For years now, or at least since the Twins entered their recent recession, people have speculated on his tradeability. With the way things are playing out, however, he may not be tradeable at all.
Let’s first discuss the team’s trade chips. The Twins are in the market to maximize the value of their trade chips, and a first baseman who isn’t hitting dingers isn’t the trade chip he should be, especially since most contenders are set at that position, and Morneau is making 12 million dollars. If anyone is getting moved, it is going to be the switch hitting catcher or slugging left fielder. Both Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham are affordable commodities and have another year on their contract. They will be able to bring back more in return, which is key for a team focused on rebuilding.
So Doumit and Willingham are moved, some fresh faces are brought in to Rochester an New Britain, probably, and in the Major League roster, there is a regular spot for Chris Parmelee and Oswaldo Arcia. Wilkin Ramirez and Darin Mastroianni can fill out some bench spots, and there is a spot for any fast comers on offense from the minor leagues. Justin Morneau can continue to split time between first and DH. Chris Herrmann maximizes his value as a catcher. The Twins in the short term are slightly worse, but the real life experience of some key cogs to the Twins of the Twins of the future will be a benefit in the long term.
And then, ext year what happens? Morneau’s value is significantly reduced on the open market, but his popularity in the Twin Cities and chemistry with his current teammates makes him eminently more valuable in Minnesota than he would be if he went anywhere else. I’m not general manager, but I suspect his annual salary next year will be in the 7-8 million range. If he takes a home town discount, then we can estimate the low end of that scale. That means he would make half of what he makes this year, a significant saving for the Twins while at the same time preserving a fan favorite and a modicum of respectability.
As I said in the previous paragraph, I am by no means the GM. The purpose of this post is merely to suggest that it is entirely feasible that Morneau isn’t going anywhere, despite speculation to the contrary over the past couple of years.