Earlier tonight I started getting “Morneau to the Pirates?” tweets. I had no idea where they were coming from, since none of my other Twitter columns were mentioning Morneau. I did a search and found that Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press had this opinion on Morneau.
Pittsburgh Pirates still seem the best bet if the Twins trade Justin Morneau before Aug. 31.
— Charley Walters (@Charley_Walters) August 20, 2013
Justin Morneau doesn’t expect to be traded.
Through the usual game of telephone, the whole part about “if” was dropped, and that tweet was translated as the Pirates being close to acquiring Morneau. Bob Pompeani mentioned the comment, which probably drew the attention of a lot of Pirates fans, but Pompeani also clearly wrote “IF” in his tweet. I’ll never understand how so many people can mis-read a 140 character message, but that’s another topic.
I was planning on writing about Morneau, clarifying the above that no one has said he is close to coming to Pittsburgh, and also pointing out the value he could have on the team. Then as I was getting ready to write this, I noticed Jon Morosi had an article up saying that Morneau expects to stay.
In the article, Morosi notes that Morneau feels there aren’t a lot of opportunities for his services out there, as there aren’t a lot of contending teams who need a first baseman down the stretch. Morosi mentions that the $3 M that Morneau is owed for the final month and ten days is a big drawback.
There was also a conflicting report out of Minnesota, with Darren Wolfson saying that the Yankees are back in it, and the Orioles could panic.
Chased a Morneau update after that performance tonight. Source: "Yankees are back in it… and Baltimore may begin to panic." #mntwins
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) August 21, 2013
(con.) Morneau source said watch the #Yankees right up until August 31. Nothing on the cusp. But that they are still monitoring. #mntwins
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) August 21, 2013
I do think Morneau would have some value to the Pirates. Right now Garrett Jones is struggling against right-handers, with a .748 OPS. By comparison, Morneau has an .815 OPS against right-handers, which would be an upgrade. It wouldn’t be a massive upgrade, and the idea that Morneau is some sort of key to the offense is wrong. But the Pirates would switch from a bat that has been cold lately to a bat that is on a hot streak. The question is, do you pay a pro-rated $14 M for a slightly better version of Garrett Jones?
I’m sure that’s going to draw out the old “Nutting is cheap” arguments, but the truth is that this matters. People would go insane if Garrett Jones was given $14 M next year, yet so many are fine just giving up $3 M for one month of Morneau. I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t think Morneau is an upgrade. I just don’t think this situation is as black and white as people think. Morneau will help the offense, but he won’t be the answer to the offensive problems. He’s also not worth the money he is owed for the rest of the year, due to his marginal upgrade over what the Pirates currently have. And it’s not like the Pirates can just decide one day that they want to go get Morneau, as Bill Brink points out.
Despite some interest, #Pirates can't just "go get" Morneau. No 10 and 5 rights, but source said #Twins will honor his wishes.
— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 21, 2013
This could be a different story in about ten days. If the Pirates can’t find anyone else, then the money matters a little less. Then it’s just a question of whether they think Morneau provides a big enough impact to make the move. Until then, they might be better off waiting to see if anyone else goes on waivers. Chase Headley went on waivers today, and the Pirates were deep into talks for him last year. He’s also under control through 2014 and is a good bounce back candidate. That’s just one example of a better option that could come along. If no better option is available, then based on what Morosi is saying, Morneau should still be there on August 31st. Even Wolfson’s source indicated the Yankees would be waiting until the 31st. Fortunately, the Pirates will still be in the division race at that point.
Links and Notes
**The latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast is out: P3 Episode 17: The Pirates Issues With RISP, Platoons, and Small Ball.
**Prospect Watch: Stolmy Pimentel Tosses Seven Shutout Innings.
**Pat Ludwig Follows Up Pitcher of the Week Honors With Another Gem.
**Altoona Loses Pitcher’s Duel Against Reading.
**GCL Notes: First Looks at Pitchers Billy Roth and Yhonathan Barrios.
**DSL Prospect Watch: Twelve Straight Wins For Pirates2, Four Hits For Hurtarte.
**Minor League Schedule: Creasy Looks to Help West Virginia’s Playoff Chances.
**Pirates Playoff Odds: NL Central Could Be St. Louis-Pittsburgh Dead Heat.
**Pirates Notebook: How Justin Wilson and First-Year Relievers Face Long Season.
**A.J. Burnett and Pirates Offense Bounce Back Strong for 8-1 Victory.