The Pirates are still interested in Morneau.
The Pirates might not be done trading. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that they are still looking at Justin Morneau after the addition of Marlon Byrd this afternoon. Heyman says that the Twins would be willing to pay some of the $3 M that Morneau is owed over the final month of the year. He also says that while the Pirates paid a lot today for a rental in Byrd, they’ve deemed the requests from the Twins as too high.
I’ve written in the past about how Morneau would be an upgrade over Garrett Jones, although he wouldn’t be the monster upgrade that everyone is making him out to be. On the season he has an .821 OPS against right-handers, with a .565 OPS against lefties. He would replace Garrett Jones in the first base platoon, where Jones has a .731 OPS this year.
Morneau elevated his numbers this year with a monster stretch in the first two weeks of August, where he hit six homers. Since clearing waivers, Morneau has cooled, and is hitting for a .779 OPS, which is closer to his full season numbers. Still, Jones is struggling lately, so the Pirates would get the hotter bat if they added Morneau. The addition would also strengthen the bench by moving Jones to that role, although that depends on whether he could bounce back.
I don’t think the Pirates should over-pay for Morneau to the extent that they paid for Byrd. It was only a month ago that Jones had a hot bat (.804 OPS in July), while Morneau was the one struggling (.596 OPS in July). Things can change quickly for either player. I think that right field was the bigger need for the team, and Byrd has been consistently good this season. He also can hit lefties, which is an area where the Pirates have struggled. So overall, Byrd filled more needs than Morneau would. That doesn’t mean Morneau wouldn’t fill a need or be an upgrade. I just don’t see him being as big of an upgrade as he’s made out to be.