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Pirates

Should The Pirates Pursue Justin Morneau?

By Matt Popchock
Justin Morneau

(Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Pirates are struggling to hit their way into the postseason, and the Minnesota Twins are trying to build for the future. Could former Twins All-Star and 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau help the Bucs?

Morneau, 32, cleared waivers recently. A .278 lifetime hitter with a career OPS of .831, he is hitting just .261 this year with a .731 OPS, along with 14 home runs and 68 RBI.

He is due for free agency in 2014 and currently comes with a $4 million price tag. It doesn’t seen like much to take on, even for a small-market team, and one that has to plug gaping holes in its lineup, particularly at right field and first base.

Despite their disparity in the standings, the Pirates entered their series with the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park Monday actually having scored fewer runs than they on the year, and ranking 23rd across Major League Baseball in scoring.

Entering Monday’s game, the Bucs sat just 22nd in the majors with a .245 team batting average, though their .704 team OPS was at least even with the National League average.

Zach Morrison of Rant Sports believes Morneau would be a good fit for the Pirates:

“Unlike Jones, Morneau does have a much better chance at putting the ball in play, with just a 17.4 percent strikeout rate compared to Jones’ 22 percent rate,” he explains. “Let’s not forget that Morneau plays in a park that is awful for left-handed hitters, while Jones plays in a very hitter-friendly park for lefties.”

Click here to read the full post by Morrison.

The expanded MLB playoff field has been a catch-22 for the Pirates. Obviously it has increased their postseason odds since it went into effect last year, but it has also lured other teams’ general managers into thinking their club is still in the hunt late in the season.

This made for an uncommonly tepid trade market, as Pirates GM Neal Huntington pointed out July 31, when the team, despite its good-faith efforts, was unable to add pieces at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Furthermore, with their generally superior record, the Pirates are required wait and see waiver-wire activity by teams with lesser records before laying claim to a big-name talent like Morneau.

Oddly enough, the Pirates and Padres were involved in one of the bigger waiver-wire swaps in recent baseball history, but as James Krug of iSportsWeb points out, such activity is rare.

Click here to read his full post.

Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones is having trouble hitting his way out of a down year. After hitting a career-best 27 homers in 2012, he has just 11 this year, he had just two hits in his last 21 at-bats entering Monday, and seven strikeouts in that span. Plus, in yet another twist of irony, he’s the same age as Morneau and used to be Twins property.

On the other hand, Morneau only has three more homers, and, generally, there is a negligible difference in power numbers; Jones was slugging .420 to his .417 entering Monday. Despite his pedigree, when such a player is placed on waivers in the first place, he’s there for a reason.

Still, Morneau had 26 more RBI entering Monday, and was batting 16 points better, and even a small uptick in productivity can make a difference. As Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune-Review pointed out Sunday, the Pirates, amazingly, have won over three-quarters of their games in which they’ve scored at least three runs.

Huntington hinted to Kovacevic the team is still seeking ways to improve offensively before the waiver deadline ends and big-league rosters expand to 40 players Sept. 1, so Morneau may be just one of several names being seriously pondered.

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