Minnesota Twins: Top Destinations for Justin Morneau

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Justin Morneau won the 2006 AL MVP as the Twins went 96-66.

COMMENTARY | With the All-Star game complete and the trade deadline just a couple weeks away, that means it's time for the trade rumor mill to get into high gear. High on the list for the Minnesota Twins is first baseman Justin Morneau.

Morneau is 32 years old and in the final year of his contract. The Twins don't appear to be interested in extending his contract, so it is very likely the Twins will look to trade him sometime in the next couple weeks for a prospect.

The problem is that Morneau just hasn't been the same player since suffering a concussion three years ago at the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a career OPS of .869 when he took a knee to the head. Since then, he has a .725 OPS, which is pretty much league average.

However, Morneau can only play first base and designated hitter, so being league average just doesn't cut it. This means the Twins need to hope that someone will overvalue him based on his career track record and his supposed intangibles as a veteran leader.

Jim Bowden of ESPN has speculated that the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees will likely pursue a trade for Morneau.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays don't seem to have a pressing need for Morneau's services. James Loney is one of their best regulars with an .832 OPS while playing pretty much every day at first base.

Rays manager Joe Maddon like to use the DH spot to get days off from fielding for regular players. Luke Scott has had the majority of at-bats at DH and has an .838 OPS.

Both players have been hitting better than Morneau, so it doesn't seem likely that the Rays would have him start in front of either of them. If they do look to trade for Morneau, it would be more likely that it would be for added depth and veteran leadership.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been splitting time at first base between former Twin Garret Jones and Gabby Sanchez. Sanchez has a .741 OPS, which is a little better than Morneau's .737 on the season. Sanchez also is a right-handed batter.

Jones has a .721 OPS, which is even worse when take into account that Jones has been in a platoon situation. Morneau has a .777 OPS vs. right-handed pitchers, while Jones has a .755 OPS against righties. The Pirates might want Morneau to replace Jones in their platoon at first base and add veteran leadership to a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 1992.

New York Yankees

The Yankees have been forced to use Lyle Overbay at first base since Mark Teixeira is injured and out for the season. However, he has a .745 OPS, which is still better than Morneau.

The bigger hole is at DH. Travis Hafner has been the Yankee's primary DH and has a .721 OPS. He also has a .575 OPS since May 1 and has been even more injury prone than Morneau. Hafner has appeared in more than 100 games in a season just once since 2007. He's currently at 75 games.

The Yankees could also be looking at Morneau getting a boost from switching home ballparks from Target Field to Yankee Stadium, where Morneau has a career .922 OPS. The biggest obstacle might be the health of Derek Jeter, who might only be able to DH most games at this point in his career.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers could also be interested in Morneau. They have actually been below average in offense despite having one of the best home ballparks for offense in baseball.

The Rangers could be looking to replace the bat of 37-year-old DH Lance Berkman, who has been hitting for even less power than Morneau despite the friendly hitting environment. The Rangers could also be interested in Morneau for his career 1.050 OPS at The Ballpark at Arlington.

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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