The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

September 1, 2013

Thoma column:Twins traded Morneau's name

What's in a name? In the case of Justin Morneau, a bench outfielder and, apparently, a bullpen lottery ticket.

That's what the Minnesota Twins got Saturday from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for the former MVP and franchise cornerstone — 28-year-old outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later, rumored to be minor league pitcher Duke Welker, also 28.

Morneau is more a name than a player now. His slash line (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) since his career-altering 2010 concussion is a mere .256/.316/.412. The Twins would be delighted with that kind of production from Pedro Florimon, but it's not enough from a first baseman and cleanup hitter.

But there was some value to be extracted from Morneau's reputation. Presley isn't going to be a great player, but he can help.

He's a left-handed hitter, a center fielder who has hit pretty consistently in Triple A but hasn't the power to be a regular in an outfield corner and has been blocked in Pittsburgh by Andrew McCutchen, who is one of the best players in the National League.

The Pirates may not need a center fielder, but the Twins do, at least for a little while as Byron Buxton continues to marinate in the minors. Presley figures to be a step up from Clete Thomas as a place holder, and when Buxton is ready (or if Aaron Hicks gets his career trajectory straightened out) Presley can be a bench piece.

We should see plenty of Presley this month.

We should also see plenty of Chris Colabello at first base. The minor league vet's major league playing time has been sporadic because of Morneau's presence; Morneau's departure gives the Twins a month to see what Colabello can do with consistent at-bats.

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