Jim Bowden of ESPN has some trade buzz from the All-Star week, and has the Pittsburgh Pirates included in a rumor. Unlike Bowden’s trade ideas, these are actual rumors based on what Bowden has heard. He says the Minnesota Twins are prepared to trade Justin Morneau, and has the Pirates as one of the teams rumored as a possible destination. He also lists the Yankees and Rays as possibilities.
To get an idea of what Morneau would be worth, let’s take a look at his trade value.
NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players. The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) - Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects.
Justin Morneau Trade Value
Finding the Value: Giving Morneau a 1.2 WAR might be kind. He has a 0.6 WAR a little beyond the half-season mark this year, and had an 0.3 WAR in 2012 and a -0.7 WAR in 2011. He’s got a huge salary, leading to a negative surplus value. The 1.2 WAR would be his max value. He would be owed $4.64 M in the final two months of the year, so the Twins would probably have to pick up all of his remaining salary. The values above are based on a July 31st trade.
What He’s Worth: If the Twins picked up all of his salary, he’d be worth a Grade C pitching prospect. That is only if he comes with the 1.2 WAR value. It’s possible that this could be a Derrek Lee for Aaron Baker situation where you give up a Grade C hitter who has one good tool and probably won’t make it past Double-A.
Analysis: Morneau could be had for pretty much nothing, especially if a team is willing to take on additional salary. He hasn’t been hitting the last few years, and has a .737 OPS this year. He does have platoon splits, with a .777 OPS against right-handers and a .647 OPS against lefties. Last year the split was .902/.569. He’s also left-handed, so the hope would be that he could improve his numbers playing half of his games in PNC Park.
Garrett Jones has been struggling lately against right-handers, which is throwing a wrench into the first base platoon. Morneau is basically the same player as Jones, only he’s limited to first base. If the Pirates were to add Morneau, it would give them one power bat off the bench, whether that’s Jones or Morneau. They could also shift Jones to right field if Jose Tabata doesn’t continue the recent hot hitting. It could be possible that Morneau is just brought in as a power option off the bench.
It seems there are better options out there who wouldn’t cost much in terms of prospects. Personally I think Kendrys Morales would be a better alternative. He also wouldn’t cost a lot in prospects, and would upgrade the first base position, while also making the bench stronger by moving the Jones/Sanchez platoon to the bench. If they didn’t get Morales, then Morneau would be a good Plan B. Here are his splits this year against right-handers, compared to Jones:
Morneau: .283/.348/.429 in 226 AB
Jones: .265/.314/.442 in 249 AB
Morneau is only one month older than Jones, and he’d actually be an upgrade right now with the way Jones has been playing lately. He’s probably not a huge upgrade, and at the least he’d be a bench option and insurance if Jones continues to struggle.