First Pitch: The Conflicting Reports on Justin Morneau

Earlier tonight I started getting “Morneau to the Pirates?” tweets. I had no idea where they were coming from, since none of my other Twitter columns were mentioning Morneau. I did a search and found that Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press had this opinion on Morneau.

Justin Morneau doesn't expect to be traded.

Justin Morneau doesn’t expect to be traded.

Through the usual game of telephone, the whole part about “if” was dropped, and that tweet was translated as the Pirates being close to acquiring Morneau. Bob Pompeani mentioned the comment, which probably drew the attention of a lot of Pirates fans, but Pompeani also clearly wrote “IF” in his tweet. I’ll never understand how so many people can mis-read a 140 character message, but that’s another topic.

I was planning on writing about Morneau, clarifying the above that no one has said he is close to coming to Pittsburgh, and also pointing out the value he could have on the team. Then as I was getting ready to write this, I noticed Jon Morosi had an article up saying that Morneau expects to stay.

In the article, Morosi notes that Morneau feels there aren’t a lot of opportunities for his services out there, as there aren’t a lot of contending teams who need a first baseman down the stretch. Morosi mentions that the $3 M that Morneau is owed for the final month and ten days is a big drawback.

There was also a conflicting report out of Minnesota, with Darren Wolfson saying that the Yankees are back in it, and the Orioles could panic.

I do think Morneau would have some value to the Pirates. Right now Garrett Jones is struggling against right-handers, with a .748 OPS. By comparison, Morneau has an .815 OPS against right-handers, which would be an upgrade. It wouldn’t be a massive upgrade, and the idea that Morneau is some sort of key to the offense is wrong. But the Pirates would switch from a bat that has been cold lately to a bat that is on a hot streak. The question is, do you pay a pro-rated $14 M for a slightly better version of Garrett Jones?

I’m sure that’s going to draw out the old “Nutting is cheap” arguments, but the truth is that this matters. People would go insane if Garrett Jones was given $14 M next year, yet so many are fine just giving up $3 M for one month of Morneau. I don’t want to make it sound like I don’t think Morneau is an upgrade. I just don’t think this situation is as black and white as people think. Morneau will help the offense, but he won’t be the answer to the offensive problems. He’s also not worth the money he is owed for the rest of the year, due to his marginal upgrade over what the Pirates currently have. And it’s not like the Pirates can just decide one day that they want to go get Morneau, as Bill Brink points out.

This could be a different story in about ten days. If the Pirates can’t find anyone else, then the money matters a little less. Then it’s just a question of whether they think Morneau provides a big enough impact to make the move. Until then, they might be better off waiting to see if anyone else goes on waivers. Chase Headley went on waivers today, and the Pirates were deep into talks for him last year. He’s also under control through 2014 and is a good bounce back candidate. That’s just one example of a better option that could come along. If no better option is available, then based on what Morosi is saying, Morneau should still be there on August 31st. Even Wolfson’s source indicated the Yankees would be waiting until the 31st. Fortunately, the Pirates will still be in the division race at that point.

Links and Notes

**The latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast is out: P3 Episode 17: The Pirates Issues With RISP, Platoons, and Small Ball.

Prospects

**Prospect Watch: Stolmy Pimentel Tosses Seven Shutout Innings.

**Pat Ludwig Follows Up Pitcher of the Week Honors With Another Gem.

**Altoona Loses Pitcher’s Duel Against Reading.

**GCL Notes: First Looks at Pitchers Billy Roth and Yhonathan Barrios.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Twelve Straight Wins For Pirates2, Four Hits For Hurtarte.

**Minor League Schedule: Creasy Looks to Help West Virginia’s Playoff Chances.

Pirates

**Pirates Playoff Odds: NL Central Could Be St. Louis-Pittsburgh Dead Heat.

**Pirates Notebook: How Justin Wilson and First-Year Relievers Face Long Season.

**A.J. Burnett and Pirates Offense Bounce Back Strong for 8-1 Victory.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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