The latest news coming out of Chicago is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are close to acquiring White Sox outfielder Alex Rios. It’s an interesting development as just four days ago a report from Jason Stark indicated that the Pirates weren’t “as focused” on Rios as some believed. If such a deal comes to fruition, it takes a potential landing spot for Minnesota Twins 1B Justin Morneau off the board.
The Pirates have inquired about Morneau recently but the addition of Rios would allow Garrett Jones, who has been playing both 1B and RF, to focus on 1B. Jones is hitting 0.256/.304/.438 this season while Morneau currently has a 0.264/.324/.396 slash line. Based on full season performance they are relatively comparable at the present time.
To be clear I still believe it is in the best interests of the Twins to keep Morneau through the end of the season and I stand behind the article I wrote ten days ago along those lines. Considering he’s hitting 0.180/.270/.348 during the month of July (100 PA) he certainly hasn’t helped his value on the current trade market or the free agent market after the season. Morneau’s home/away splits this season have also surely given interested parties pause:
- Home: 0.320/.368/.521 in 43 games at Target Field
- Away: 0.218/.288/.292 in 53 games on the road
Assuming the Rios deal comes together and Pittsburgh is off the board, Toronto and Baltimore are the two teams that have been recently linked to the Twins 1B.
The Orioles had a scout on hand this weekend to watch Minnesota and Seattle play and they did do a preliminary check-in on Morneau’s price and availability, but said scout could have also been evaluating Seattle’s Kendrys Morales as Baltimore’s primary offensive need is at DH. Morales is hitting 0.278/.337/.465 with 25 2B and 16 HR. His production and more reasonable salary make him a more attractive target, but both those things also mean it will take a more hefty trade package to acquire his services. This morning Dan Connolly wrote the following in the Baltimore Sun:
Minnesota’s Justin Morneau – I thought this was a guy the Orioles would pursue aggressively. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Questions about his declining offense and the money he is due makes me think the Orioles will pass now.
This is not surprising and it comes on the heels of Phil Mackey’s report on the 24th that Morneau’s July slump has significantly impacted his value on the trade market. Two teams that Mackey lists as having interest at one point, the Yankees and Rays, have not been linked to the Twins or Morneau in quite some time. New York also recently acquired Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano to bolster their offense and received additional reinforcements with the return of Derek Jeter to the lineup. The Rays have always seemed like a long shot to go after Morneau. As one of the more intelligently run organizations out there, they wouldn’t figure to take on his contract or gamble that he would be reinvigorated over the remainder of the season if acquired.
With all the above in mind, it would appear that the trade market for Justin Morneau is presently non-existent. However the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo noted on Sunday that the Twins had received “numerous calls” and one of the team’s now thought to have interest is the Toronto Blue Jays. I have not come across much in the way of Toronto’s interest beyond simply being “interested” so it’s hard to gauge where they stand. There is a big difference between a team making a call to check on a player’s availability and having actual substantive interest in trading for said player.
The way Morneau has been playing this month and with the amount of money he’s owed I will be shocked if he’s traded prior to tomorrow’s non-waiver deadline. Of course waiver deals can still be made after Wednesday and sadly Morneau seems like a prime candidate to go that route. I’m still hopeful he will remain with the Twins as moving him at this point will amount to little more than a salary dump and that would be a nightmare for the organization to spin to the fan base.
UPDATE: Reports now indicate that a White Sox-Pirates trade involving Alex Rios is not close, so Pittsburgh may still be an option.