Monday, October 7, 2013

Duke Welker and Justin Morneau

Justin Morneau is greeted in the Pittsburgh dugout after
scoring a run in Game Two of their series with the Cardinals.
Duke Welker was officially named Saturday as the second player (the other being outfielder Alex Presley) the Twins got from Pittsburgh in the Justin Morneau trade.

Welker's a 6-foot-7 right-handed relief pitcher, age 27, whose fastball sits around 93 mph and occasionally touches 97. He has all of 1.1 major-league innings on his resume, so it's a reasonable assumption that his velocity isn't enough. He has good Triple A strikeout rates, bad walk rates.

I expect Welker to compete come spring for the bullpen job occupied this year by Josh Roenicke — not quite a set-up man, not quite a long reliever.

His addition brings the Twins "unofficial" roster count to 38. (This is a more accurate tally than the official roster, which doesn't include Sam Deduno or Wilkin Ramirez, who remain on the 60-day disabled list.)

Morneau, meanwhile, is hitting cleanup for the Pirates in the NLDS, which would seem to refute my earlier claims that he no longer belongs in the middle of a major league lineup. Through Sunday, he was 5-for-17 (.294) in four postseason games, with one double.

Morneau did have a rather punchless September for the Buccos: slash line .260/.370/.312. That's a real nice OPB, and a slugging percentage that makes Nick Punto look powerful (career slugging percentage .325).

When the Twins traded Morneau, I estimated a 50 percent chance that he'd return to Minnesota as a free agent. I don't think it's anywhere near that high now.  Between the severity of Joe Mauer's concussion and the strong September of Josmil Pinto, I think it's more likely that Mauer will be the Minnesota first baseman next year. And if not in 2014, certainly in 2015. If Mauer's the first baseman, Morneau's not coming back.

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