The Twins are finishing up their third straight terrible season. As such, lots of changes have been made and lots of changes still need to be made. Older and more expensive players don't have much of a future with this team. Even so, there was one older and more expensive player that I didn't think the Twins would have the heart to deal. I was wrong.
The Trade: BREAKDOWN!
The Minnesota Twins traded Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash.
Morneau was one of the more popular players on the Twins and one of the best Twins players of this past generation. He's not an elite player anymore and he probably isn't much more than average, but he should help the Pirates regardless.
Presley is a 28-year-old outfielder who can play center, just not very well. He's probably somewhere in the Clete Thomas range of ability/talent and he could be a DFA candidate within the next couple months.
How do I feel right now?
I'm sadder than I thought I would be about Morneau.
— Brad Swanson (@bridman77) August 31, 2013
What a dork! Oh wait, that's me. When I saw the news, I said to my wife, "wow, they actually traded Morneau." I had pretty much made up my mind that the Twins would hold on to Morneau for the rest of the season. I thought that was a sentimental move and the Twins should unload Morneau for anything they could get, but I also thought that was how they would approach the situation. I was wrong and now I'm a little sad.
Morneau was not my favorite player or anything like that, but I did like him. I enjoyed watching him play for the past decade and I have witnessed many exciting moments provided by him. This move is also sad because it wouldn't have been necessary if the team wasn't so awful. The heyday of the 2000s is long gone and the casualties are piling up. Morneau has a legitimate place on a good team, but can basically only offer veteran leadership on a bad team.
I am a Twins fan, so I will move on. It will be odd seeing Morneau in another jersey, but it's certainly what is best for him. He goes from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best. He also gets to play for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 20 years and are on the verge of erasing that streak. It should be more fun for him than going through the motions with a bad team.
Why make the trade?
Normally, I'd find some quotes from a story, but this story is too brand new. Instead, I'll riff. Like jazz.
Is it easier to trade an incredibly popular player with a month remaining in the season or to let an extremely popular player walk during free agency? I think the trade route is better for PR. The Twins can always entertain the idea of bringing Morneau back during free agency. This gives them a month for fans' memories of Morneau to fade. Odds are that Morneau would have been playing elsewhere in 2014 anyway, so getting something for him at least shows the fans that the organization did not want to let him leave for nothing.
Of course, this return appears to be just about nothing. I just compared Presley to Clete Thomas a couple paragraphs ago. That pretty much sums it up. The PTBNL still looms, and perhaps the Twins can sell hope that they will receive someone interesting in a few weeks. Most times, the PTBNL is a guy with no chance for any success. Occasionally, they become MLB players. Once, they become David Ortiz. Here is a slideshow with some of the most impressive PTNBLs of all-time. You're not going to be pumping your fist with excitement after seeing it.
Most likely, this trade will not make the Twins any better in the present or the future. I guess it depends a bit on who the player to be named later will be, but as I said earlier, those guys aren't typically future superstars. You can even look to the trades the Twins have made during the 2013 season to see the disparity in who will ultimately fill that role.
The Twins traded Drew Butera to the Dodgers for a PTBNL and received a 19-year-old lefty who is holding his own in the Midwest League. He's not a top prospect, but he is certainly a surprising return for a back-up (at best) catcher. Of course, he is also 5' 10" and some project him for the bullpen. Even a surprisingly good return needs to be muted a bit. The Twins also traded Jamey Carroll to the Royals for a PTBNL and they simply took cash. Of course, Morneau is better than those two players, but he also makes a lot more money. Who really knows? We'll find out soon enough.
The real impact of this trade will be felt off the field. I am 100% positive that there will be some fans who are so turned off by trading Morneau that they will "give up" on the team. Trading Morneau also removes one of the more popular and marketable players from the roster. While Morneau was likely leaving in a month anyway, this move could make selling September tickets just a bit more difficult. Of course, the Twins will probably see an uptick in tickets sold to Alex Presley's family.
Who won the WAR?
Obviously, this WAR is just beginning. I would guess that Morneau provides more value than Presley for the rest of this season. The Twins will win this WAR if Morneau bolts Pittsburgh after this month. Even so, I don't see much chance for the Twins to get much value out of this trade, even in the long-term.
One Sentence Summary
Again, I am surprised by how sad I am; and what a dork I am.