Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Should there be a Morneau contract controversy?

When Twins position players reported to camp at the end of last week, Justin Morneau was one of the first people that the media hunted down. There was good reason to do this since he is in the last year of his contract with the club and his future is unclear at this point.

According to Morneau, there haven't been any discussions about an extension between his agent and the club. This means that he is anticipating playing out the rest of his contract and testing the free agent market at season's end.

As part of Morneau's interview, he talked about the Twins having plenty of prospects working their way to the major leagues. This is great for the club but it isn't so great for a 31-year old former MVP. After ten years in the big leagues and some recent injury concerns, the future is not certain at this point.

Any player that is getting closer to the end of their career is going to want to find a way to win. Morneau and his agent are probably looking at the Twins current rebuilding job and wondering if the Canadian slugger is part of the equation. There could be younger, cheaper options to take his spot on the roster.

During last offseason, the Twins saw Joe Nathan leave in free agency to head to Texas. The opportunity to be on a contending team was too much for Nathan to ignore. If the same situation plays out this coming offseason, it could mean that Morneau will find himself in a different uniform by next year.

With one year left on his deal and free agency loom, there is plenty of uncertainty for 2013. Will the Twins trade Morneau before the deadline? Is he fully healthy after a slough of injuries in the last handful of years? And should there be a Morneau contract controversy?

A couple of seasons ago, the Twins had another former MVP getting close to free agency. The team needed to hash out a new contract with Joe Mauer before the start of the year. He had just come off his best season where he put together a historically good offensive campaign for a catcher. It seemed like the time was right for a deal.

The Twins front office hasn't been in a position to offer Morneau a contract because his health has been so much of a concern. It would have looked silly to extend a deal when the team wasn't sure if he would be able to play first base or get back to his old ways at the plate.

Morneau proved his ability to stay healthy last season. This offseason he was able to complete his full workout routine for the first time in years. These are all good signs but it still doesn't mean that the Twins are going to be jumping to sign him to a long-term extension.

A motivated and healthy Morneau could be fun to watch. He is working towards an important contract in his career and that could mean some big numbers on the field. If he wants teams to spend some money on him next offseason, it will be crucial for him to show he can get back to his old mashing ways.

It was made clear by Morneau that he won't discuss a new contract once the season starts because he doesn't want the deal to be a distraction. He seems content to play out the next few months and see what the future will bring.

Morneau has done some great things for the Twin Cities community while he has been a member of the Twins. Those charitable works might be heading to a different market at some point this year. This could leave Twins fans with only a few more opportunities to see Morneau cracking home runs out near the flagpole.

Enjoy the last few months of Morneau because there doesn't seem to be a contract controversy brewing anytime soon...

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