COMMENTARY | The Minnesota Twins have clearly fallen to the point where they have to look to the future. The Twins' best trade chip is Justin Morneau, but the Twins might be considering extending his contract, which would be a mistake.
Source on whether #MNTwins will approach Morneau's camp pre-7/31 about $$ it'll take to extend: "I assume they will." Hasn't happened yet.- Darren Wolfson, 1500ESPN.com (@DarrenWolfson) July 11, 2013
This might just be a courtesy by the Twins for the popular home-grown player. It also might just be purely idle speculation by Wolfson's source. However, if the Twins truly are thinking about extending Morneau, they need to think again.
First of all, Morneau will be in his age 33 season next year. The Twins are well on their way to a third-straight 90-loss season. They need to bring in players with future upside, not retain ones on the downside of their careers.
Morneau's age doesn't tell the whole story. He is just not performing to the level his salary demands would likely require. He has just not been the same since suffering a concussion in July 2010.
Prior to the concussion, Morneau was a career .286/.358/.511 hitter. Since the concussion, he's batting .259/.320/.404. And it's not like he's showing signs of getting better, since he's batting .270/.329/.406 in 2013 prior to Thursday's loss in the finale with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Minnesota Twins Don't Need to Retain Left-handed Batters
The Twins don't need a left-handed bat either. With Willingham out, the Twins currently only have two right-handed batters in the everyday lineup. The Twins are desperate right now for right-handed power.
The Twins also have numerous options to replace Morneau. Chris Parmelee is the first in line. He is a career .251/.325/.417 hitter in the major leagues and could still improve on those numbers over the next few years. While Parmelee would replace Morneau at first, Oswaldo Arcia will be more likely to replace Morneau's bat in the lineup and will most likely exceed Morneau's and Parmelee's production.
Also, when top prospect Miguel Sano is called up, which could be sometime in 2014, the Twins will need to move Trevor Plouffe off third base to make room for Sano. Plouffe could land at first base if Parmelee struggles, or the two could make a formidable platoon.
Instead of extending Morneau, the Twins need to see what they can get for him in a trade before the July 31 deadline. If the Twins agree to pay for most of his remaining salary, they could increase the possible return.
Trading Morneau also would open up more playing time for young players now so the Twins could get a better idea of what they need to do in the offseason. For one thing, the Twins could call Chris Colabello back up to the major leagues and give him an extended look to see if the way he's crushing the ball for Class AAA Rochester can translate to the major leagues.
And it's not like the Twins can't re-sign Morneau after trading him. The Twins traded Rick Aguilera in the final year of his contract to the Boston Red Sox in 1995 and then re-signed him that December.
Minnesota Twins Should Wait Until the Offseason if They Want to Re-Sign Justin Morneau
The only way it would make sense for the Twins to bring Morneau back in 2014 would be if Morneau accepted a one-year incentive-laden deal. The incentives would have to be based on performance, not just games played. It could include a team or vesting option for a second year, but anything more would not make sense.
The likelihood that Morneau and his agent would accept such an extension now is very small. A player with Morneau's track record would want to test the free-agent market before accepting a deal like that to stay with the Twins, unless he felt the Twins were on the verge of getting him that World Series championship ring he covets.
Given the freefall the Twins are currently in, that's just not happening.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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