Ron Gardenhire hates that Justin Morneau is surrounded by uncertainty, that he knows he could be a former Twin any day. But now it appears Morneau must live in stay-or-trade purgatory for as long as two more weeks.
Morneau cleared waivers Wednesday, a league source confirmed to the Star Tribune, having gone unclaimed the past two days by the other 29 teams. But the process actually makes a trade more likely, not less, as Twins General Manager Terry Ryan now can negotiate a trade with any team, rather than just one.
Which doesn’t make Morneau’s manager particularly happy.
“Mornie’s really the one taking a beating because he likes it here,” Gardenhire said of the constant rumors and questions the former AL MVP has faced for the past couple of months. “Rather than answer all these questions, he just likes to play baseball.”
His six-year contract, which pays him roughly $76,500 a day this season, expires in October, giving the Twins motivation to see if they can find a suitor who would take on the salary and, perhaps, send back a prospect. Waiver trades are almost always consummated by Aug. 31, so that the players involved are eligible for postseason play.
So sit tight for two more weeks of rumors, with the Pirates, Yankees, Rangers and Rays among the more likely potential trade partners. Gardenhire isn’t looking forward to the questions, and would just prefer the Twins keep the four-time All-Star. “He’s been here a long time, and I know how much he puts into being a Minnesota Twin,” Gardenhire said. “I have a fondness for him, and a lot of respect for the way he plays.”
Now the Twins will see how many other teams do as well for the first baseman. Had Morneau been claimed, the Twins would have had 48 hours to negotiate a trade with that team only, allow the claiming team to assume his contract with no compensation, or withdraw the waivers and keep him for the rest of the year.
With no team claiming him, however, Ryan is free to negotiate with any suitor, without a deadline hanging over the talks. Basically, the transaction could come down to: What team is willing to pay Morneau the roughly $3.44 million he is owed between now and season’s end?
There is one other stumbling block to a trade: Morneau’s contract includes a clause that allows him to block a deal to six teams. He won’t reveal what teams he specified but downplayed the possible effect, saying, “Most of the teams on that list are at places that are bad to hit in, to tell you the truth. And most of those teams aren’t in the race, anyway.”
Because waiver information is considered private, Ryan would not comment on Morneau’s status. Still, Ryan seemed to agree with Gardenhire that Morneau is a special case. “I understand family, I understand loyalty, I understand history. I understand that as much as anybody, and I believe in all that,” Ryan said. “We all have a job, we all have to do it, and there are always ramifications. Tough business.”
• Ryan said catcher Ryan Doumit, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list Friday because of concussion-like symptoms, will likely be reactivated in the next couple days. Ryan said Doumit resisted being put on the DL, but noted that the players understand the seriousness of concussions.
• Josh Willingham was struck by a pitch from Bryan Shaw in the eighth inning, the 13th time this season he has been hit, tying him for the AL lead. Chris Herrmann pinch ran for Willingham.
Staff writer Kelly Parsons contributed to this report.