Thursday, December 20, 2012

What the Kendrys Morales trade tells us about Justin Morneau's value

Kendrys Morales shattered his ankle in 2010 celebrating
a walk-off grand slam.
Here are two first basemen/DHs in 2012:

  • Kendrys Morales of the Angels: 522 plate appearances, 22 homers, .273/.320/.467.
  • Justin Morneau of the Twins: 570 plate appearances, 19 homers, .267/.333/.440.

Fairly similar 2012 seasons, right? Each suffered a major injury in midseason 2010 that not only ended that year but wrecked 2011 as well. While both played regularly in 2012, neither was quite at the level they had been at before the 2010 injury. (For Morales, it was a fractured ankle; for Morneau, it was a concussion). Both are to be free agents after the 2013 season.

There are a couple of significant differences, however. Morneau turns 32 in May and will be paid $14 million next season; Morales is a bit more than two years younger and is much cheaper (arbitration eligible).

The Angels traded Morales on Wednesday to the Seattle Mariners for Jason Vargas, a left-handed starter who is basically what the Twins hope Scott Diamond is. Vargas gave the Mariners about 200 innings each of the past three seasons, 30-plus starts each year, ERA of 3.96 for the three years combined. Good but not great.

Vargas, too, will be eligible for free agency after 2013.

That's what a near-match for Justin Morneau fetched in a trade: One year of a No. 3 starter.

This trade convinces me that Morneau isn't getting dealt this winter. The Twins still have a place in their lineup for Morneau; the Angels, having just signed Josh Hamilton, didn't really have a role for Morales. That they traded him in the division suggests that Vargas was the best offer they had for the big Cuban.

Terry Ryan isn't likely to trade Morneau for anything less than a significant long-term pitcher -- a trade along the lines of the Denard Span deal. And I don't think that's coming this offseason.

Come the trading deadline, maybe.


  1. " 200 innings each of the past three seasons, 30-plus starts each year, ERA of 3.96 for the three years combined. Good but not great."

    Name 10 American League pitchers who have been better over the last three years. I think you are underestimating Vargas value. He got the 6th most batters out of any pitcher in the AL last year. And he has been in the top 20 three years in a row.

    That said. I think your basic point is correct. People overestimate what the return on Morneau would be. There has never been much chance Morneau was going to be traded during the off-season. For one thing, it would be selling low. Morneau's value mid-season will likely be higher than it is now.

    1. Verlander, Sabathia, Price, Shields, Felix, Weaver, Lester(bad 2012 still left his ERA lower than Vargas' for the three years) ... requiring three years seals out Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Jeremy Helleckson and Mark Buehrle ... There are plenty of better starters in the AL than Vargas.

      You may be underestimating how much Safeco has helped Vargas. He gave up 35 HR last year, which is a lot, and only nine came in Seattle.