When Justin Morneau signed his six-year, $80 million contract in January 2008, the end of that deal seemed so far away. He was 26 and a season removed from winning the American League MVP, and the Twins were perennial contenders.
Now he is 31, approaching the end of that deal next fall, and the Twins are coming off back-to-back 90-loss seasons. His concussion issues are behind him, but he is hardly satisfied.
"When you get to this stage of my career, or Joe [Mauer's] stage of his career, the only thing that matters now is winning," Morneau said. "That's it."
Morneau knows he could get traded this offseason. The Twins need starting pitching and have Chris Parmelee to take his place at first base.
"If they decide it's time for me to go, that things need to be done to help this team win, then that's for people who get paid to make those decisions," he said. "Obviously, I want to play here. I've been here when it's good. We've had a couple tough years, but I want to be here when it's good again. And it's not too far away in my eyes."
Morneau rattled off all the championship pieces he sees in the lineup and bullpen. He also believes he can help close the gap.
"People say, 'You're healthy in September,' " he said. "Well, I want to be playing well in September. I think I continue to get more confident, but I need to get stronger this offseason."
After suffering season-ending concussions the past two years, Morneau has a chance to reach 137 games played, which would be his highest total since 2008. He entered Friday batting .273 with 19 home runs and 73 RBI, but since Aug. 7 he had produced only four homers and 23 RBI.
"Next year, our expectations [for Morneau] are going to be higher," General Manager Terry Ryan said. "He's a power-hitting first baseman who hits in the middle of this lineup. He's going to hit more home runs. He's going to drive in more runs."
A year ago Sunday, Morneau had surgery to stabilize a tendon in his left wrist, and this remains his biggest issue. He spent 15 days on the disabled list in May because of wrist soreness, so he has curtailed his lifting.
"[The wrist] blows up every time I try to lift weights," Morneau said. "So it's kind of a tradeoff I've had to make, and I'm not too happy with it."
At least Morneau doesn't need more surgery. He had four different procedures last year, including work on his neck, knee and foot.
"You build your strength in the offseason, and you maintain it during the season,'' he said. "Everybody's fresh the first three months, and after that it goes back to how much work you put in in the winter."