Sports Illustrated (Fan Nation, more accurately) reports that Justin Morneau is available as a trade candidate. Justin Morneau is from Canada. The Toronto Blue Jays are from Canada. Natural fit! Let's nip this one in the bud, shall we?
This isn't really a caveat to a Morneau trade or anything, but Adam Lind is going to keep getting chances at 1B/DH, whether we like it or not. I'm not even sure that AA is trying to swing a deal for Lind, given the way the Edwin stuff worked out for him over the last year and change, or the potential bargain of a contract that Lind has ($2MM left this year, $5MM next year, plus a bevy of options and buyouts) if he ever returns to even a league-average offensive producer. AA probably wants to be absolutely certain that Lind doesn't have anything to provide before giving up on him entirely, considering the way he's played since his recall, especially if Aaron Hill is any indication (that's a pretty different story though).
To add to that, Jose Bautista is probably pretty close to joining Lind and Edwin Encarnacion as 1B/DH types. I'm not going to pretend that I know much (anything) about what defensive metrics say about a player beyond the +/- madness, but Bautista just isn't all that good defensively, no matter what his arm may suggest. Beyond that, if Anthony Gose does happen to force his way on to the team, the natural play would be to move Bautista to 1B (or DH, if they want Edwin at 1B) and to jettison Lind. All of this is a way of saying that there might not be room for Morneau as a 1B/DH, even if Lind doesn't stick around.
Having too many assets isn't exactly a problem, so the above could easily be worked around for the right player... I just don't think Morneau is the right player. A few red flags:
- Morneau has about $20MM left on his contract ($~6MM left this year, $14MM next year), and hasn't managed to avoid the DL for a full season since 2008. Obviously the concussion issue that has cost him so much time over the last few years isn't something that we can just point to and say "he's injury prone!" because it was kind of a freak thing, but still, his production has dipped big-time since then, and it's probably not a coincidence.
- As a 31 year old, he's past his prime, even if he does return to form somewhat.
- His .249/.312/.432 batting line, adjusted for league and park, is pretty much league average (99 WRC+). Given that "league average" includes all positions (i.e. light-hitting, defense-premium spots like CF, SS, and C), Morneau is pretty significantly below average as a 1B/DH, and is scarcely worth the $14MM/yr price tag, even without the injury concerns.
Naturally, if the Twins are just going to fuck off and die for the next season or two, they should sell off a bunch of their players in order to obtain prospects so that they can reduce costs while they suck, or at least have something to look forward to. They'd probably like to move Joe Mauer out from behind the plate over to 1B so as to keep him healthy long-term, but beyond that, practically everybody should be available. Any deal involving Morneau would involve a (some) non-1B prospect(s) coming back the other way (so don't even get me started about a Lind-for-Morneau trade), with the relative awesomeness or amount of said prospect(s) varying with the amount of money the Twins decide to eat;
- If the Jays take the whole contract, the Twins can have salary relief little more than an organizational filler of a prospect.
- If the Twins eat the whole contract, the Jays will have to part with some sort of useful piece(s).
The problem with either scenario is that the Jays aren't going to part with significant prospects (or agree to take on an extra $15MM+) without guaranteeing themselves an upgrade over what they have. And that's the thing about Morneau... he's not a significant upgrade over Lind, especially with the injury concerns. Like Lind, he doesn't really hit lefties very well (anymore, anyway): despite a career .314 wOBA v. LHP he has a .183 wOBA v. LHP in both 2011 and 2012. His ability to hit lefties was something that really separated him from other LHB 1B's during his peak years (those 2011 and 2012 numbers are dealing with some pretty small sample sizes, by the way). He handles RHP just fine (.380 career wOBA, .388 in 2012, .319 in 2011, .467 2010), but uhh... well, Adam Lind's numbers vs. RHP: .356 career wOBA v. RHP, .330 in 2012, .328 in 2011, .356 in 2010, .418 in 2009. Lind costs about 40% as much as Morneau, and despite being terrible, he can be relied upon to play pretty much everyday if asked, which definitely has some value*.
Basically what I'm saying here is that as frustrating as Adam Lind is to watch, the production that Morneau would provide really wouldn't be a big upgrade over Lind's bat, and we already have Lind (as in: we don't have to give anything up to get Lind's glorified platoonsmanship in to the lineup). Lind's ZiPS ROS (rest-of-season) projections give him .259/.314/.454, which is good for about 0.5 WAR (54 games), depending on how much he plays which position. Morneau's ZiPS ROS: .263/.335/.444, good for 0.7 WAR (45 games)*.
Obviously getting away from Target Field would be nice for Morneau, and people talk about trades rejuvenating careers all the time, so who the fuck knows? The point remains, however, that Morneau really isn't all that good anymore, and given the amount he plays, probably wouldn't provide much more than half a win over Lind on an ambitious scale.
If the Jays decide that they want to give up on Lind (and that's exactly what they would be doing here), and can get a hefty discount on the contract, then sure, I'd be up for the risk. He's been historically pretty good defensively, and we've all seen that he can put up some MVP numbers, but 2009 is a long time (and a major, major concussion ago). We just saw J.A. Happ and two relievers fetch some fringy prospects, so who knows what an expensive, damaged Justin Morneau could be had for? I'm sure Minnesota would eat some cash in order to improve their prospect haul, since they've done a pretty embarrassing job of drafting and developing in the last few years. The Jays have plenty of depth in their minor league system, and it's not like it would cost them a Norris or a Nicolino or a Sanchez to get the job done. Still, I think there are better spots that the Jays can find to use their prospect depth than to load up on another 1B, especially considering the pitching situation.
*: That value comes from needing to play a replacement level player for those extra 9 games. Morneau is certainly better than Lind, but there is a give-and-take. You can have Morneau 45 times and [replacement player] 23 times, or you can have Lind 54 times, and [replacement player] 14 times. Morneau's higher ROS wOBA is diminished by the fact that he can only provide that value 45 times in the next 68 games.