With the 2012 season quickly becoming a replay of the 2011 campaign and the trade deadline past, many fans (including myself) are surprised that the Twins still hold one of the most rumored trade pieces on the team--Justin Morneau.
Morneau was one of the most widely talked about players as far as potential trade bait for the Twins coming into July but either the Twins didn't receive an offer they liked or they didn't get one at all--or they didn't try. I'm more inclined to believe that they didn't try too hard but then again, I lean on the side of cynicism.
Either way, Morneau is still a Minnesota Twin and that means the team needs to decide where the former MVP is going to fit in or if he does anymore.
After his well-documented concussion in 2010, Justin Morneau struggled through the 2011 season and left many wondering if his MVP days (or even just his playing days) were in the past. Prior to his injury in 2010, Morneau was hitting .345/.437/.618 through 81 games with 18 home runs. 2011 saw the slugger hit just .227/.285/.333 all the while looking like he was fighting not only his reoccurring concussion symptoms, but even just to hit the ball well.
The beginning of 2012 didn't get off to a great start either (.246/.312/.440) but it was an improvement not only in the stats column, but in the fact that the first baseman was finally free of concussion symptoms. The all-star break saw a turn around in Morneau's batting and since the break, Morneau has been hitting .322/.368/.517 with 6 home runs and 11 doubles in 38 games.
I know that many fans, including myself, and I'm sure coaches as well,breathed a sigh of relief to see that Morneau could still do what he had before his concussion, but that brings us to the big question: what happens now?
With Joe Mauer venturing out to first base more and more along with the continued development of Chris Parmalee (who should not be considered for an outfield position, different topic for another day), where will that leave Justin Morneau?
Morneau is due $14 million dollars in 2013...a big price tag for another team to want to pick up for a player who has a history of injuries. On the other hand, the Twins could shop Morneau to pick up another starting pitcher to bolster their carousel-of-a-rotation for next season.
Now when I say another starting pitcher, I do not mean a prospect--I mean a MLB pitcher who is ready to go. Of course, the Twins wouldn't be able to get an ace for Morneau without giving something else up, but just a solid middle to back-end of the rotation would be helpful.
Seeing as the Twins' front office doesn't seem to go in for the blockbuster trades like other teams do, I would be surprised if the Twins did get what they needed for Morneau and not another minor league prospect (Heaven forbid!).
But suppose the Twins do retain Morneau in 2013--it is still completely possible that he will regain some of his pre-concussion power and become a solid middle of the lineup hitter again. He has started to show signs of that late this season, but can that be maintained over the course of a season? If not, DH would be a good place to put him to keep his bat in the lineup. However, that would mean his glove would not be in the field and that would also create an issue of where to have Doumit on days he isn't catching or playing elsewhere.
The end of this 2012 season will set the tone for how the Twins will approach the question of what to do with Justin Morneau. If he continues hitting the way he has been since the all-star break, he may be worth keeping at least for the short term while the team figures out where the heck they are going in 2013 and beyond.
On the other hand, if he begins to show signs of breaking down again, would that mean it is time to start looking for potential suitors for the former MVP? Maybe.
The Twins will need to have a plan going into 2013 with what they intend to do so they don't get caught with their pants down on this. It is a fine line to walk, don't hold on to Morneau too long but don't let him go too early. Keep him but use him in the best way possible.
Either way, this is something the Twins will need to get right.