Jun 14, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau (33) hits a single against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Pirates Made Huge Mistake By Not Attempting To Re-Sign Justin Morneau

Last August, the Pirates, in the midst of a playoff race, went “all in” and landed Minnesota Twins four-time All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau.

At the time, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, “We felt that this move gives us a better chance to play in October, a better chance to win the division, a better chance to advance in October.”

This move helped to solidify a major weakness at first base, as well the addition of another hitter between Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez.

The Pirates did make a Wild Card spot and advanced over the Cincinnati Reds in a wild playoff game at PNC Park. The Pirates then played a great series and fell to the St. Louis Cardinals, who would make it to the World Series.

Morneau’s career as a Pirates was short-lived, as he only played in 25 games, batting .260 with 20 hits in 77 at-bats. Though the former AL MVP and 2008 Home Run Derby Champion didn’t hit a homer with the Pirates, he still played relatively well and worthy of a Pirates contract offer.

In the offseason, Morneau exclaimed that he wanted to play for a winner, his options were wide open as far as which team he would sign with, and that he enjoyed playing in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates, notoriously known for not offering a steep paycheck, did not even extend an offer for Morneau to stay in Pittsburgh. Justin would later go on to sign with the Colorado Rockies, taking a two-year, $13 million dollar deal ($6.5 million per season).

I’d say that was a pretty cheap deal for the Rockies, and the Pirates never even gave him an offer. I would think that the Pirates learned their lesson when they acquired Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline but didn’t try to re-sign him. Ludwick would go on to the Cincinnati Reds and hit 26 HRs and 80 RBIs for a division rival the next year.

This isn’t as bad of a blow as trading away Jose Bautista to the Blue Jays, but it just doesn’t make sense why Pittsburgh couldn’t at least extend an offer. I think the lack of a Morneau offer is as bad as Pirate fans who are demanding the team trades Alvarez.

I understand Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett leaving the Pirates for the big bucks. We can’t afford to dish out $17 million a year for one player near the end of his career. Besides, outfielder Gregory Polanco and starting pitcher Jameson Taillon were about to be unleashed.

As for first base, this is a glaring weakness for the Pirates in my opinion. Morneau was a huge improvement over Garrett Jones last season, but what was the plan for this year? The Pirates have some young talent in the minors, as Josh Bell may be a potential star, but there wasn’t immediate help for the first base position. The Andrew Lambo experiment didn’t last long.

For Colorado, the 33-year-old Morneau is batting .312 with 13 HRs and 60 RBIs. Pirates fans can watch him tonight in the Home Run Derby. For the Pirates, Gaby Sanchez is batting .229 with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs and Ike Davis is batting .234 with 5 HRs and 28 RBIs. Those numbers aren’t too great for a team who wants to make the playoffs again.

We could only wonder “what-if,” but I can assure you that the Pirates would be a much stronger squad with Morneau at first base. Maybe the Pirates will try to reacquire him for another run at the playoffs.


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Tags: Justin Morneau Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Tj Streib

    I don’t think they were happy with the BIG 3 RBIs they got from Morneau, but yeah, 6.5M a year was very affordable & cheaper than Davis/Sanchez combined

    • Lee Young

      It was affordable, but nobody was rushing to give him that money at the time. They were willing to give Loney $7 mil, so it wasn’t about the money. Sheesh!

  • scott stevens

    That’s what happens when you place money ahead of winning, he may not of put up numbers he is putting up for the Rockies, but he would have us in first place and it wouldn’t have cost us any player in our system. I forgot you just wrote an article giving our front office grade a A-, talk about clueless in the Burgh.

    • Rick Eger


      • scott stevens

        Hey A hole, like what Ike is doin at first. Your clueless!

        • Rick Eger

          Hey F-Head you like those three rbi’s Morneau drove in for us last season? Wow another Lou Gehrig.

  • NorCalBuc

    NOBODY was in favor of resigning Morneau. I’m not impressed this article was written with such hindsight.

  • Lee Young

    Thank you Capt Hindsight. If we’re gonna play THAT game, personally, I think we should’ve drafted Paul Goldschmidt in the 6th round in 2009 instead of ZVR. We would’ve saved LOTSA money all the way around.

  • NickC

    How can you say they should have signed him? Didn’t he have like 5 RBI’s the entire time he was with the Pirates, as the clean-up hitter. None of those RBI’s were in the post-season. So given the production he had as a Pirate, I didn’t see any reason to resign him.

    • Rick Eger


  • DigitalDan

    Because of his poor performance with the Pirates – no home-runs and 3 RBIs, he was considered to be on the downside of his career, maybe washed up? Can’t fault the Pirates for not resigning.

  • Frank Kuchno

    “A huge improvement over Garret Jones”????

    0 HRs and an OPS of .681???

    Have you EVER actually watched a baseball game??

  • Tintin

    He was terrible last year. he played poor uninspired baseball. this is truly a hindsight be 20/20 argument.

  • edweissguy

    Sounds like all of us were pretty underwhelmed by Morneau’s performance last fall, when he had lots of opportunities to be a hero and consistently whiffed. Also, keep in mind that almost all hitters’ numbers are inflated to one degree or another in Denver, and for all that the Rockies aren’t even on the radar in the NL West race this year. You’re probably right that the Bucs would be better off with Morneau at first right now, but over the long term it seems likely that they’ll find a better option. I’m sometimes frustrated with the Pirates’ management for being so stingy with their resources, but on this one at least, I’ll give them a pass…

    • Rick Eger

      Hey three rbi’s!

  • Brett Tunno

    Thank you all for the comments. Of course this article was written in hindsight, but how can you judge a player who only played in 25 games after spending his entire career in one city? Yes, he didn’t put up big RBI or HR numbers, but did you watch the games near the end of the year? The number 1 and 2 hitters (Marte and Walker) struggled mightily at the end of the season and playoffs. Aside from McCutchen, there wasn’t anyone on base for Morneau.

    I’ve watched many baseball games, and I attended all of the postseason games at PNC Park last year. I am just saying that I was in favor of signing Morneau, a former AL MVP, for a reasonable price for 1 or 2 years. With a lineup of Polanco, Marte, and McCutchen in front of Morneau, I’m willing to bet he would have had more chances of racking up the RBIs.

    Yes, it is possible his numbers may be inflated because he is playing in Colorado, but I don’t think the 33-year old is “washed up.” The free agent market for 1B was horrible this past offseason. What was the plan for a first baseman? I was tired of watching G.I. Jones striking out, and so were the Pirates, as they didn’t attempt to resign him. If Morneau left the Pirates and signed somewhere for over $8-10 million a season, I wouldn’t have written this article. The fact is, he would have been a relatively cheap signing, which I’m sure the Pirates wouldn’t mind.

    If we want to make a run at another postseason, Sanchez and Davis are not the answer at first base. I’d consider moving Pedro to first, or eventually give prospect Josh Bell a try.

  • djcar

    wow, some of the comments about Morneau’s stats make me wonder how much of a baseball fan some of you are. When the options were Sanchez, Lambeau and an interest in acquiring Ike Davis in spring training for first base,( who they eventually did for some unknown reason), why not sign Morneau, a proven first baseman all his career and give him a better chance to prove his worth from the start of the season instead of thrown onto a national league team at the end of the season. He’s only been a career .280 hitter and has hit nearly 20 hrs every year. They didn’t seem to have a problem signing Volquez who in 5 starts for LAD during the stretch last year was 0-2 and gave up 14 runs and 5hrs in 28 innings and 6.01 era overall in 2013. No one seems to think he’s washed up though and the consensus was see if he can revive his career here but you all didn’t give Morneau the same chance.

    • Rick Eger

      The difference is I want to move forward…..Morneau is not the answer. Every year some pitcher off the scrap heap will rebound.

  • Rick Eger

    They did like hell…..he was here two months and stunk the joint out! Anyone can hit in Colorado!