Twins are “optimistic” that Justin Morneau “will be ready for spring training”

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Initially expected to be sidelined for less than a week, Justin Morneau ended up missing the final three months of the season and the playoffs after suffering a concussion from a knee to the helmet while trying to break up a double play on July 7.

There’s been little said about his status since the Twins were swept out of the playoffs by the Yankees, but today general manager Bill Smith told Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that Morneau is “increasing his workload” and the team is “optimistic he will be ready for spring training.”

Twins pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Florida on February 17, giving Morneau another month or so to get ready, but unfortunately with concussions it’s tough to truly tell if someone is healthy until they ramp up physical activity all the way. Morneau tried to do that several times during the season only to suffer a setback when his post-concussion symptoms returned.

His status is likely effecting the Twins’ efforts to re-sign Jim Thome, because if Morneau is healthy and Thome re-signs Minnesota would have five hitters (Morneau, Thome, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel) for just four lineup spots, which is the same logjam that led to Thome starting just 34 of 84 games before Morneau’s concussion.

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is among multiple sources reporting that the Rangers are making a strong push for Thome, who could be looking for more playing time than the Twins can guarantee in addition to a multi-year commitment they’re likely hesitant to make to a 40-year-old designated hitter.

Rays trade Corey Dickerson to the Pirates

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Hey guys, guess what: another Rays post. This one is news, though:

The Pirates just announced that they’ve acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Rays in exchange for reliever Daniel Hudson, minor league infielder Tristan Gray and cash.

Dickerson, as we’ve mentioned 10,000 times in the past few days, was DFA’d by the Rays for . . . reasons. The outfielder/DH hit .282/.325/.490 with a career-best 27 home runs and 2.6 fWAR in 629 PA last year, making the All-Star game. Which is really bad, according to some people who I still don’t totally understand, but what do I know? He’ll slide into an outfield situation in Pittsburgh that currently features Adam Frazier at the top of the depth chart in left.

Hudson is entering the second year of a two-year, $11 million deal, which likely explains why cash is coming back to Tampa Bay in the trade. In 2017 Hudson posted a 4.38 ERA in 71 games, striking out 66 batters and walking 33 in 61.2 innings.

Gray was a 13th rounder in last year’s draft out of Rice. He’s a middle infielder who will turn 22 next month. Last year he played 53 games in the New York-Penn league.