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Big League Stew

Pirates acquire first baseman Justin Morneau from Twins for stretch run

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

In case you didn't think the Pittsburgh Pirates were going for it this season, the team has made another quality addition to their starting lineup. After acquiring Marlon Byrd and John Buck from the New York Mets earlier in the week, general manager Neal Huntington went back to work on Saturday, landing first baseman Justin Morneau from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash considerations.

The move represents a pretty solid upgrade at first base, where the Pirates have been utilizing Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez in a platoon this season. Until his four RBI game on Friday night, Jones was hitting .119 in August. Obviously they realized they were going to need better, or at least more consistent production in September and possibly October if they hope to hang around. Sanchez, on the other hand, is hitting only .242 this season with seven home runs and 34 RBIs.

As for Morneau, his overall slash line of .259/.315/.426 doesn't strike you as a player ready to make an impact, particularly from an offensive position like first base, but he does have nine of his 17 home runs in August. If he can stay close to that level of production down the stretch, Pittsburgh will be in a much better position to overcome the St. Louis Cardinals and win their first division championship since 1992.

In parting with Alex Presley, 28, the Pirates are only giving up a fourth, maybe fifth outfielder at best. He's not likely to make a huge impact in Minnesota, and the Pirates aren't likely to miss his presence going forward. The player to be named later isn't expected to be an impact prospect either.

Morneau is a long way from his MVP season in 2006, but is owed only $2.5 million the rest of the season before entering the free agent market this winter. In other words, the Pirates aren't making a long-term commitment here that they seem destined to regret. As late season gambles and one month rentals go, acquiring Justin Morneau for next to nothing seems like a pretty smart one.

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