All-time Twins great Morneau dealt to Pirates
Minnesota gets Presley, another prospect or cash for 2006 American League MVP
ARLINGTON -- After 11 years in Minnesota, Justin Morneau is heading to Pittsburgh.
The Twins traded their longtime first baseman to the Pirates for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named or cash, both clubs announced on Saturday afternoon. According to MLB.com sources, the second player will be right-handed reliever Duke Welker.
Morneau, who cleared waivers earlier this month, is still due roughly $2.2 million this season in the last year of a six-year, $80 million deal signed in 2008. He'll join a Pirates team that's tied for first in the National League Central with the Cardinals.
"He's going to get an opportunity to play for a team that's in contention and in a playoff atmosphere," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "We're not in that, unfortunately. As everybody knows, he's a free agent at the end of the year, so we did this for a number of reasons. This might be a good move for Justin. The Pirates are certainly in the path of heading to the postseason."
Morneau, 32, leaves the Twins with a career .278/.347/.485 slash line in 1,278 games over 11 seasons. His 221 homers rank as the third-highest total in Twins history behind only Harmon Killebrew and Kent Hrbek. He was also a four-time All-Star and was named AL MVP in 2006, which was also the last year he played in the postseason, as injuries kept him out of the playoffs in '09 and '10, including a career-altering concussion suffered on July 7, 2010.
Morneau was having a career year in '10, but missed the rest of the season after sustaining the concussion when he was kneed in the head while trying to break up a double play in Toronto. He went through an injury-plagued campaign in '11 but has remained mostly healthy the last two seasons while seeing a dropoff in production from his All-Star form.
Morneau played in almost every game this year, hitting .259/.315/.426 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 127 games with nine homers coming in August. Trade rumors swirled around Morneau before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but he wasn't traded until Saturday, which is the deadline for players to be dealt to be eligible to play in the postseason.
"He was here from Day 1 during my time as manager," said Ron Gardenhire, who took over as Twins manager in 2002. "So, it's not an easy thing, but it happened. The only good thing for me is that he's going to be in a pennant race, because he loves this time of year and that kind of baseball. So, I'm very happy for him in that respect, but it's hard to lose him in this clubhouse and personally."
In exchange for Morneau, the Twins will receive Presley, who has spent most of the year at Triple-A Indianapolis. The 28-year-old is hitting .298/.376/.427 with five homers, 17 doubles, six triples and 17 stolen bases in 89 games at Triple-A this year.
Presley, who can play all three outfield positions, has appeared in 204 career games with the Pirates, hitting .261/.299/.419, which is a step below his career .309/.377/.460 line in 285 games at Triple-A. He's scheduled to join the Twins on Sunday at Arlington.
"He's a catalyst-type guy," Ryan said. "He's a guy who can hit one, two or eight [in the lineup]. He can run and he can throw enough and play left, center or right. He can steal some bases. He probably shouldn't hit the ball in the air too much, because he's not a power guy, but he can hit one every once in a while. He's an athlete."
Ryan added he expects to receive another prospect in exchange for Morneau at a later date instead of cash. He also declined to talk about the possibility of bringing back Morneau this offseason on a new contract. Ryan cited tampering as the reason he couldn't talk about potentially re-signing Morneau, as he's now on another team. But there is precedent for such a deal, as Ryan traded former closer Rick Aguilera to the Red Sox in July 1995 before re-signing him that offseason.
"He's a member of a different organization, so I don't think it's wise to talk about what's going to transpire in the offseason," Ryan said. "It's just not right."
Welker, meanwhile, is on Pittsburgh's 40-man roster, so the 6-foot-7 right-hander can't be traded until after the season. He has a fastball that registers in the high 90s, and has a 3.25 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 61 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis. The 27-year-old also made two scoreless appearances with the Pirates in late June.