It’s no secret that with four days to go until the MLB trade deadline arrives, Pittsburgh Pirates’ general manager Neal Huntington will look to add a bat or two by Wednesday.
Names like the Chicago Cubs Nate Schierholtz remains a possibility, but don’t count out the Bucs making a play on another guy whose contract is set to expire in Minnesota Twins’ first baseman Justin Morneau.
While Pirates’ fans may still be clamoring for Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com Morneau is a player the Pirates could seriously consider.
The Pirates might not be as focused on Alex Rios in their big-bat shopping spree as they’ve been portrayed. For one thing, Rios’ contract — which would increase his base pay to $13 million next season if he’s traded — doesn’t fit into their projected payroll. And other scouts say Pirates scouts have grumbled that Rios doesn’t always play hard.
Here’s a name to file away: Justin Morneau. Even though the Pirates would prefer a right-handed bat who could play right field, they could slide Garrett Jones back to right (where he’s played 265 games) if they deal for a first baseman. And we’ve heard they’ve inquired with the Twins about Morneau.
Morneau is not having a great season as he is only batting .269 with seven homers and 52 RBI, but his RBI total would rank him third on the Pirates team behind Pedro Alvarez (64) and Andrew McCutchen (55, as of play Friday night). Sadly no other Pirates play has driven in more than 37 runs on the season.
If Huntington can’t strike a deal for a right fielder, this may be the next best option as Jones and Jose Tabata should be fine in a platoon situation in right, especially if Jones ever heats up.
We saw Huntington bring in Derrek Lee in 2011 who had a torrid finish to that season and Morneau could be a similar situation.
Being that he is set to be a free agent, he is a guy that the Pirates should be able to get without parting with any of their top prospects.
It’s true that Morneau isn’t the same player that he was when he won the American League MVP in 2006, but he’s a definite upgrade over what the Pirates currently have and he’s a guy that Huntington should seriously consider as a run producer as the deadline nears.