Waiver Chatter: Josh Willingham vs Justin Morneau

Hannah Foslien

Neither player is having a particularly good season. But sometimes value can come from unexpected places.

We don't need to rehash the Justin Morneau trade issue too much. It's a topic that's been so thoroughly discussed that it's getting to the point where media narrative is, basically, the sports world's reality. Suffice it to say that Morneau has cleared wavers and that, for a number of different reasons, he seems unlikely to be traded. You can only read the same tweet so many times...

...before you stop paying attention.

Which brings us to Josh Willingham, who, as we discovered yesterday, has also been placed on waivers.

So, why would Willingham possibly have a better chance of being moved when, statistically and in terms of health, he has had a worse year than Morneau? Two reasons.

Production

In spite of a dismal batting average, Willingham has been able to maintain an excellent walk rate (13.4%) and, in spite of making less contact on the whole (72.9% contact rate, his lowest since 2007), Willingham is still a threat to hit for power (.179 ISO). It's quite easy to imagine a team scouting Willingham, deciding they could help him make a few adjustments at the plate so he'd stop popping everything up that wasn't hit out of the park, and subsequently making a move to bring him into the fold.

Contract

While Morneau is viewed as a sub-par first baseman who is essentially a five-week rental player, Willingham has one year remaining on his three-year contract. The team that acquires Josh will be on the hook for a palatable $7.5 million in 2014. A team considering bringing him in for the stretch run to the playoffs is likely to see that as a bonus; not only are they picking up a potential power bat for their lineup, they'll have him under team control for an additional season.

In conclusion, it's easy to view a Willingham trade as "selling low". Especially after his big 2012 season. But if the right team is interested, and if the Twins and Terry Ryan work it the right way, there's still an opportunity to maximize his value. We've reached the waning days of August - the final few days and hours with which a team can truly upgrade and equip itself with the weapons it thinks it needs for a successful run at the pennant. It's feasible that somebody will not just see the value we mentioned, but it's feasible that they might just be a bit desperate as well.

At least that's the best-case scenario. With Saturday's August 31 deadline looming, we won't have to wait long to find out Willingham's fate.

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