JUSTIN MORNEAU
FIRST BASEMAN
Born: May 15, 1981
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 220
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Drafted: 3rd Round, 89th Overall, 1999 (Twins)
How Acquired: Trade from Twin (for Alex Presley and Duke Welker)
College: New Westminster (BC) HS
Agent: SFX

WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES

Morneau was one of the better run producers in the majors in his prime years, which lasted from 2006 through mid-2010.  He benefited greatly during much of that time from batting behind Joe Mauer.  In July 2010, though, Morneau suffered a concussion and the symptoms lingered for an extended period.  Since returning, he’s never been the hitter he was before.  He’s also had to deal with neck, shoulder, wrist and other injuries.

Morneau at his best was a very good power hitter who hit for average and didn’t strike out excessively.  He had excellent plate discipline in his prime, but it’s been borderline since then.  He’s usually had large platoon splits:  he has a career .896 OPS against RHPs and .711 against LHPs.  In recent years it’s been even more pronounced:  he had an OPS against LHPs of .569 in 2012 and .536 in 2013 while still with the Twins.  He’s solid defensively and doesn’t run well.

1999
R:  302/333/396, 53 AB, 5 2B, 2 BB, 6 K, 0-1 SB

Morneau made a brief debut in rookie ball.

2000
R:  402/478/665, 194 AB, 21 2B, 10 HR, 30 BB, 18 K, 3-4 SB
R+:  217/250/348, 23 AB, 1 HR, 1 BB, 6 K

The Twins sent Morneau back to the GCL and he pretty much wrecked the place.  He divided his time amongst catcher, first and right.  He also caught a few games near the end of the season in the advanced rookie level Appalachian League.

2001
A:  356/420/597, 236 AB, 17 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 26 BB, 38 K
A+:  294/385/437, 197, 10 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 24 BB, 41 K
AA:  158/214/184, 38 AB, 1 2B, 3 BB, 8 K

The Twins moved Morneau permanently to first — he hasn’t played any other position since, at any level — and he dominated low A for half a season. He continued to hit and control the strike zone well after a mid-season promotion to high A, but his power dropped off.  Of course, he’d just turned 20 at that point.  He finished the season with a cameo in AA.

2002
AA:  298/356/474, 494 AB, 31 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 42 BB, 88 K, 7-7 SB

Morneau spent the season in AA and hit well without dominating.  Baseball America still rated him the 14th best prospect in baseball after the season.

2003
AA:  329/384/620, 86 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 7 BB, 14 K
AAA:  268/344/498, 265 AB, 11 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 28 BB, 56 K, 0-2 SB
MLB:  226/287/377, 106 AB, 4 2B, 4 HR, 9 BB, 30 K

Surprisingly, Morneau opened the season back in AA, where he got off to a fast start and won an early promotion.  The Twins called him up to the majors in early June and he didn’t hit well, but wasn’t overwhelmed.  He went back to AAA in August but returned to the majors in September.

2004
AAA:  306/377/615, 326 AB, 23 2B, 22 HR, 32 BB, 47 K, 1-2 SB
MLB:  271/340/576, 280 AB, 17 2B, 19 HR, 28 BB, 54 K

The Twins were generally slow to go with younger players in those days and they went with Doug Mientkiewicz at first, returning Morneau to AAA.  He hit a ton there, got called up in late May, posted a .912 OPS over eight games, and got sent back to AAA.  He continued tearing up the level and finally got recalled for good in mid-July.  He was the Twins’ best hitter over the remainder of the season.

2005
MLB:  239/304/437, 490 AB, 23 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 44 BB, 94 K, 0-2 SB

Morneau had a mediocre season, with a bad August pulling down his numbers.

2006
MLB:  321/375/559, 592 AB, 37 2B, 1 3B, 34 HR, 53 BB, 93 K, 3-6 SB

Morneau had his best full season and won the AL MVP award, mainly on the strength of his 130 RBIs (which didn’t even lead the league).  Morneau’s teammate, Joe Mauer, probably would have been a better choice for the award.

2007
MLB:  271/343/492, 590 AB, 31 2B, 3 3B, 31 HR, 64 BB, 91 K, 1-2 SB

Morneau dropped off from the previous season’s heights, but still drove in 111 runs.  After the season, Morneau signed a six-year, $80M contract.

2008
MLB:  300/374/499, 623 AB, 47 2B, 4 3B, 23 HR, 76 BB, 85 K, 0-1 SB

Morneau had probably his second-best season, driving in 129 runs.

2009
MLB:  274/363/516, 508 AB, 31 2B, 1 3B, 30 HR, 72 BB, 86 K

Through early August, Morneau was having an outstanding season.  He had a .980 OPS on August 4, but went into a slump around mid-month.  In mid-September he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and he missed the rest of the season.

2010
MLB:  345/437/618, 296 AB, 25 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 50 BB, 62 K

Morneau was having his best season when he suffered a concussion as a result of a knee to the head from John McDonald.  He missed the entire second half, as the symptoms wouldn’t relent.

2011
AAA:  367/387/600, 30 AB, 4 2B, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K
MLB:  227/285/333, 264 AB, 16 2B, 4 HR, 19 BB, 44 K

Morneau struggled through mid-June, then missed two months after having surgery to correct pinched nerves in his neck.  He also missed time with other injuries.  At the end of August he suffered a shoulder injury that caused concussion symptoms, keeping him out the rest of the year.

2012
MLB:  267/333/440, 505 AB, 26 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 49 BB, 102 K, 1-1 SB

Morneau missed the first half of May with wrist soreness, but otherwise served as the Twins’ regular at first.  He bounced back some from 2011, but didn’t get back anywhere close to his earlier levels.

2013
MLB (Minn):  259/315/426, 495 AB, 32 2B, 17 HR, 37 BB, 98 K
MLB (Pgh):  260/370/312, 77 AB, 4 2B, 13 BB, 12 K

Morneau was hitting much as he had in 2012 through the end of June and figured heavily in trade deadline rumors.  A serious slump — he hit 175/266/330 in July — seemingly dampened interest in him and he wasn’t dealt.  He hit much better in August, although not nearly as well as some commentators seemed to think.  For the month he batted 250/293/543 with nine HRs, which was enough to revive the trade interest.  The Pirates acquired him on August 31.  He played first and hit cleanup for them in September, except that Clint Hurdle sometimes, but not always, sat him against LHPs for Gaby Sanchez.  (On the year he hit just 207/247/278 against LHPs.)  Morneau’s time with the Pirates was largely a flop.  He played good defense and drew walks, but hit no HRs and drove a paltry three runs in 25 games, then drove in none in six playoff games.

The Pirates have said they’d like to bring Morneau back.  What really matters, of course is how badly.  Although he’ll have to accept a much lower salary wherever he goes, it’s doubtful whether he’s the right player to fill the Pirates’ 1B hole.  He’s clearly just a shell of his former self and disappears offensively for long periods of time.  He can’t hit LHPs at all, but because of his prominence as a former MVP, Clint Hurdle might be unwilling to platoon him strictly, which is exactly what needs to be done.

STATS
Baseball Reference–Majors
Baseball Reference–Minors
Fangraphs
MLB.com
MiLB.com
CONTRACT INFORMATION
2005: $345,000
2006:
$385,000
2007: 
$4,500,000
2008: $8,400,000
2009: 
$11,600,000
2010: 
$15,000,000
2011: 
$15,000,000
2012: 
$14,000,000
2013: 
$14,000,000
PLAYER INFORMATION
Signing Bonus: $290,000
MiLB Debut: 1999
MLB Debut: 6/10/2003
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November 18, 2002
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 9.168
TRANSACTIONS
June 2, 1999: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round, 89th overall pick; signed on June 17.
November 18, 2002: Contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins.
August 31, 2013: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Alex Presley and a player to be named later.