Morneau's trade to Yankees - your thoughts

July 29, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS– The Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees announced today that they have agreed to a trade that will send Twins' first baseman Justin Morneau and third baseman Trevor Plouffe to the Yankees in exchange for Yankees' controversial minor league hitting prospect Alex Rodriguez, currently playing third base with Yankees' Class AAA affiliate Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Raiders. Complete terms of the deal were not yet confirmed.

Morneau, or 'Mornie' as he's called in Minnesota, is in the final year of a six-year, $80 million contract. Through Sunday's game in Seattle, Morneau is batting .264 with 8 home runs and 53 runs batted in. Plouffe, or 'Plouffie,' is batting .248 this season with 10 home runs and 37 runs batted in.

In his 13 games for the Rail Raiders this year, Rodriguez, 38, has batted .200 with 2 home runs and 8 runs batted in

"The Yankees have him [Rodriguez] under contract through 2017, and that's primarily what made him so appealing to us," said Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan, speaking by phone to reporters from his office at Target Field Monday morning.

"We're thrilled to have him, for many years to come," said Ryan.

Ryan explained that the deal was made to bring stability to a corner infield position and was not an attempt to avoid a complicated contract negotiation with Morneau, who spent his entire career before the trade in the Minnesota Twins organization. Though his power numbers have seen a decline in recent years, Morneau is widely acknowledged to have been a vital piece of the Twins success over the past decade. And although Morneau had repeatedly approached the Twins about an extension beyond 2013, sources say that the Twins were unmoved to engage in any sort of extension talks with the 32-year-old infielder.

"The Pohlads’ treasure loyalty, they treasure continuity above all else, and bringing in a player like Rodriguez, already signed for the long-term, why, it just made sense,” said Ryan. “It makes life easier for me and everyone else in the organization."

Morneau had been aggressively shopped as a trading chip by the Twins in advance of the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Plouffe, 27, is arbitration-eligible after the 2014 season, and the Yankees hope he will provide a boost in production at the third base position.

Ryan seemed both relieved and pleased that a deal for Morneau had finally been completed.

"This was the best offer out there, and a good offer," he said. "We'll miss Justin and Trevor, but I know Alex will be a good fit here."

But discord has followed Rodriguez off the field, even as his on-field career has now appeared to have stalled out at the Class AAA level.

In the past, there have been credible reports against the minor leaguer of excessive partying, illegal gambling, and use of performance-enhancing drugs to inflate his statistics – Rodriguez is currently sitting at 647 career home runs, fifth on the all-time list. Yet Ryan dismissed as rumor the present controversy surrounding Rodriguez's use of these performance-enhancing drugs, even as Rodriguez himself has begun to admit to using such drugs in the past.

It has also been reported that Rodriguez, if he returns to the majors, will likely be required to serve a lengthy suspension for his illegal involvement in the same Biogenesis clinic scandal that has brought down Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. The Twins general manager again said he didn't believe there was any validity to the performance-enhancing drug reports, but said he takes full responsibility for anything that happens to the team and would "do what's best for the [Twins'] organization" should any negative consequences arise from the deal.

Ryan also did not respond directly to speculation that the newly-acquired Scranton third baseman might even be contemplating retirement, in a face-saving move.

Inside sources also speculated that the Yankees dropped a litigation threat against Rodriguez's hefty contract in exchange for Rodriguez's promise to waive his no-trade clause, thus making the deal possible.

Twins officials – including Ryan – have continued to stress that Twins ownership, led by Jim Pohlad, have put no restrictions on what Ryan can spend or do to build a team to the Pohlads' liking. "We're all about winning," said Ryan, reiterating that trade for Rodriguez was in the club's best interests.

"It's all part of our plan to compete again in 2015 or 2016," said Ryan.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who is expecting to sign another long-term deal at the end of the season, seemed pleased to be getting a player of Rodriguez's caliber. "They tell me that 'Roddie' has been scuffling in the minors, but that he can really get after it when he's healthy," said Gardenhire. "I can't wait to meet the young man. He'll be a great addition to our clubhouse.

Health a Concern for Rodriguez

The Yankees have taken a cautious approach to Rodriguez of late. Originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners with a first overall pick, Rodriguez spent his entire career working his way through the Seattle, Texas Rangers, and New York Yankees organizations before finally having success with the Yankees in 2009. Earning a spot on the 25-man playoff roster that year, Rodriguez broke out of a deep, years-long post-season slump by hitting .455 in 11 at-bats during the American League Division Series against the Twins, including a ninth-inning, two-run, game-tying home run in Game 2 against All-Star closer Joe Nathan. The series sweep in 2009 was the first Yankees' playoff series win after four consecutive series losses, dating back to their division series win against the Twins in 2004, Rodriguez’s first year in New York.

More recently, injuries have begun to plague the minor leaguer. In 2011, Rodriguez missed 38 and 16 games respectively to knee and thumb injuries, and in 2012 he missed 36 games to a hand injury after being hit by a pitch. And Rodriguez has not yet been called up from Triple-A this season, due to his lengthy recovery and rehabilitation from off-season hip surgery, an injury more likely to be found in older players.

Nevertheless, the Twins waived the requirement that Rodriguez pass a team physical, even though the player was said by the Yankees to be experiencing a light strain in his right quadriceps which might keep him sidelined anywhere from another couple of days to the rest of the season.

Ryan noted that Rodriguez, who makes his off-season home in Miami, has been recuperating at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa, just a few miles from the Lee County Sports Complex in Fort Myers where the Twins conduct their spring training. Rodriguez therefore has full access to Twins' trainers and facilities if he chooses, said Ryan.

Since playing his first game of 2013 for the Class A Charleston RiverDogs earlier in July, Rodriguez has been commenting publicly on his desire to work his way quickly through the Yankees’ farm system and earn a trip back to the majors, where he expected to receive a warm welcome from the Yankees Stadium fans.

But now it seems his next trip to Yankees Stadium – if it ever happens – will instead be in a Minnesota Twins uniform.

Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman, who was unavailable for comment, was also said to be feeling pretty good about the Rodriguez trade, according to a source. But the source also warned that Cashman would be keeping a low profile for the time being, out of respect for the parties involved in the trade.

"I imagine he [Cashman] is weeping tears of joy somewhere," the source joked. "Finally getting rid of A-Rod and that whole soap opera, it's like a great burden has lifted from Brian and the entire Yankees franch-- um, I mean, the Twins are getting a nice, right-handed bat they can plug in to the middle of their lineup. We wish Alex the best of luck. Good luck, Alex. Good luck."

Though the Twins general manager was not yet commenting on the specifics of the agreement, sources close to the Yankees said that the Yankees will pay the remainder of Morneau's salary for the 2013 season, about $4 million. According to those same sources, the Twins will pay the remainder of Rodriguez's 2013 salary and, additionally, will assume the entire remainder of Rodriguez's contract, which will average $21.5 million per year over the next four years, not including incentives. If the trade works for the Twins as planned, the total cost of the deal will approach $100 million.

Twins president David St. Peter had not been briefed on the deal, but said that, if necessary, the Twins can recoup the cost of the Rodriguez contract by raising ticket prices.

For more information, contact the Minnesota Twins at 612-659-3400.

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