Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Morneau's days at first base are numbered

During the past couple days news has come out of the Twins organization that when Justin Morneau returns to the line-up his role will be relegated to that of the designated hitter. The team is blaming Morneau's recent headaches on a diving play he tried to make down the first baseline. Joe Mauer, Luke Hughes, and recent call-up Chris Parmelee will get chances to play at first base for the rest of the season.

Looking to the future it seems as if it might be in the best interests of the organization to make Morneau the permanent DH for the two years remaining on his contract. The variety of injuries that have plagued Morneau in recent seasons have left fans wondering if he will ever be the same player again on the field. Some of that worry could be taken away by shifting Morneau to the designated hitter role and not allowing him to re-injure himself while playing in the field.

It takes the right type of hitter to make the transformation from playing in the field everyday to being a full time DH. There are plenty of players that have been able to successfully make the shift between these two roles. Morneau has played in 88 games as a DH and that is a very small amount when compared to the 907 games he has played at 1B. His offensive production is slightly lower when he is the DH but it is important to note that this is a smaller sample size than compared to his 1B numbers.

Stat Summary: 1B (DH)
BA: .282 (.266)
OBP: .354 (.329)
SLG: .502 (.443)
OPS: .856 (.772)
BAbip: .292 (.295)

Entering the 2011 season the Twins had two options for the DH role. Jim Thome has already exited the team for Cleveland and Jason Kubel is a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. That means the Twins could be looking for someone to fill the DH role and Morneau is already under contract with the club. Chris Parmelee has shown some promise in the minor leagues and in the coming weeks he could prove to the Twins that he wants to be in the mix for the starting 1B job on the 2012 version of the Twins. 

Morneau, the four-time All Star, is under contract with the Twins for $14 million in each of the next two seasons. That is decent money tied up in a player that might be only allowed to play DH. The Twins are forced to not only think about what is best for the team but also what is best for Morneau and his family. Concussions can impact a person for the rest of their life and that might not be something Morneau is willing to risk during the rest of his playing career.

When Morneau was healthy, he had molded himself into one of the finest defenders at first base in the American League. The Twins have not seen a healthy Morneau on the field for an entire season since 2008. There needs to be some drastic changes to extend Morneau's playing career and switching away from the riggers of defending on an everyday basis could be just what the doctor ordered. 

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