Most of us figured this would eventually happened, but today the Twins finally pulled the trigger in sending Justin Morneau on his way as he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for OF Alex Presley and a PTBNL or cash.
Morneau had been heating up in August, but his overall numbers were still pretty mediocre for a first baseman, as he had hit .259/.315/.426 this year with 17 home runs. Even with the poor numbers, that was still pretty equal to the Pirates first base combo of Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, who had hit .240/.297/.423 and .248/.353/.398 respectively. For the Pirates, this likely means that Jones starts playing more corner outfield, while Morneau probably replaces Jones in the timeshare at first base with Sanchez.
As for the Twins, they receive outfielder Alex Presley in the trade, which really muddies up the outfield picture. Presley is a 28-year old lefthanded-batting outfielder that has earned nearly 700 plate appearances in the major leagues since 2010, all with the Pirates, and has batted .261/.299/.419. He has a little speed and a little pop in his bat, but his issues are that he doesn't draw many walks and hasn't received much playing time in center field with the Pirates, suggesting he doesn't have much range despite his decent speed. Granted, the Pirates have also had a Mr. Andrew McCutchen in center field, so that may have had something to do with that as well.
Let's see how many Twins get impacted by this trade with Presley's presence. It might signal the end of Clete Thomas being a starter in center field, who despite his good defense has hit a paltry .226/.299/.329 this season and is now at .238/.316/.364 for his career. It means that Aaron Hicks will likely be in the minor leagues to start 2014 and will need to prove that he deserves another chance in the majors. It also could suggest that Darin Mastroianni has a competitor for the 4th outfielder role next year.
It's not all bad for current Twins players, though, as this trade does benefit Chris Colabello and maybe Chris Parmelee. With first base now open, Colabello will be given September to show that he has a future with this team, and Parmelee might even get some starts there as well, provided that he is a call-up within the next week. I'm really interested to see what Colabello can do with some regular playing time, as this might be his only shot at having a major league career with Miguel Sano on the horizon, who is no guarantee of sticking at third base.
Of course, some people are certain that the Twins will attempt to re-sign Morneau in the offseason, and I find that to be rather humorous. It really seems that many fans have the Rick Aguilera trade-and-re-sign deals in their heads, while forgetting that these transactions with Aguilera are the exception and not the rule. It would be nice to see Morneau back, but with Colabello, Parmelee, and possibly even Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, and/or Sano being first basemen in the future, bringing back Morneau would be a move simply to appease fans rather than to get this franchise moving in the right direction again.
Overall, I'm disappointed that the Twins have another outfielder in the mix because they're already pretty crowded there, but I have no doubt that netting a pitcher in return would have only yielded a mediocre #5-type starter. I'm always intrigued by a PTBNL, but with some reports suggesting the Twins are not covering any of Morneau's salary, it sounds like they probably could have pulled off a better trade by sending a couple million dollars to Pittsburgh. Regardless, I think the Twins did well here.