First baseman Justin Morneau doesn’t believe he will be dealt before Wednesday’s deadline for trades without waivers, but he is still unsettled about his future with the Twins.
Scouts from several teams attended some or all of the Twins’ series against Seattle last weekend, including Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two teams looking for offense. Morneau was only 3-for-18 in the four-game series, but he hit a home run and doubled on Saturday.
Between shoulder shrugs and facial expressions Sunday, he repeated how he wants to remain with the club and help it emerge from its losing ways in recent seasons. He also realizes he might be viewed by the club as a way to improve in the near future — as part of the right trade.
“It’s a position I’m not familiar with and it is not the way I envisioned it going this year,” Morneau said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll be surprised if I get traded, I’ll say that.
“It’s out of my control. So I just have to go out there and play. I haven’t exactly put myself in a very good position. July hasn’t been a very good month but that’s how a season goes. I don’t know, it’s a frustrating situation.”
He could rest easy Monday, a scheduled off day. All was quiet on the trade front with the Twins, although General Manager Terry Ryan was in his office working the phones. Morneau might remain with the Twins on Tuesday, too. The Twins and Major League Baseball are set to unveil the logo for the 2014 All-Star Game to be played at Target Field. The league has requested Morneau, Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins be on hand for the event.
Anything can change with one phone call, however.
Morneau is making $14 million in the final year of a six-year, $80 million deal. He is owed roughly $4.6 million the rest of the season, which could scare off teams such as Baltimore that aren’t interested in adding much salary. But, in order to get a better player in return, all indications are that the club is willing to pay part of the remaining salary.
Ryan was asked on Monday if he has ever done that before.
“I may have to go back in the ’90s when we were strapped to some extent, payroll-wise,” Ryan said. “Each situation would be separate. Sometimes you do that, sometimes you don’t need to do that.”
Baltimore needs a designated hitter and has spoken to the Twins about Morneau. The Orioles have been using 26-year-old rookie Henry Urrutia there and their .630 on base-plus-slugging percentage is next to last in the league. Although Morneau is batting only .264 with eight homers and 53 RBI, he would be viewed as an experienced hitter who could get hot for two months and is a good clubhouse presence.
The Pirates have been getting by with former Twin Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez at first base. Jones could move to the outfield if Pittsburgh landed Morneau — the position the Twins moved Jones to because of Morneau.
The Indians, Yankees, Rockies and Rangers are teams in the bottom third of the league in first base production that could be interested in Morneau.
Morneau isn’t the only Twins player attracting interest from clubs before the deadline.
Relievers Brian Duensing and Jared Burton have been asked about. The Red Sox, Braves and Orioles, in particular, have been looking for lefthanded relief help, although the Braves traded for Scott Downs from the Angels on Monday.
Ryan Doumit could attract some interest from clubs because he is a switch-hitting catcher/outfielder with occasional power. If a contender is desperate for a back-end starter, Kevin Correia or Mike Pelfrey could attract teams. Pelfrey in particular has gradually improved in recent outings.
Ryan was asked Monday if he is pushing hard to make a deal.
“Pushing to make a deal?” Ryan said. “Or doing something over the course of the next [day] that makes sense? That would be the more accurate description, if it makes sense.”
Morneau, potentially, would be the biggest chip Ryan could use this week. He has been a four-time All-Star, the 2006 AL MVP and a team leader while with the Twins, and hasn’t been a problem since his early years — before he realized how good a player he could be.
He has reached out to them twice during the season about a contract extension, but was turned down both times. If he’s dealt, he could return next season as a free agent. He’s not ready to consider that scenario yet.
The Twins need to get better, and he knows he might be dealt to achieve that.
“I had always hoped that I would be a Twin for my whole career, but I would say that’s not guaranteed now,” Morneau said. “I would still like that to be the case, but you never know.
I don’t know … I think we have done as much as we can from our side and from our point of view of trying to get something done. If they don’t see a fit any more and the team is going to be better going forward, that is why they get paid to make those decisions.”