Minnesota didn’t know what to expect from Justin Morneau to begin the season, playing him at designated hitter instead of first base to avoid aggravating concussion symptoms and watching as he hit just .206 with a .623 OPS through nine games.
However, on Monday he felt good enough to play first base for the first time and Morneau also homered in that game. And then last night he homered again … and again.
Morneau went 3-for-4 with two homers versus the Yankees, which was his first multi-homer game since May 31, 2011. And in his fifth plate appearance manager Joe Girardi issued an intentional walk to Morneau, which was his first since June 1, 2011.
He’s hardly out of the woods yet, but for a guy who’s missed most of the past two seasons with concussions and multiple other injuries Morneau’s last 48 hours have been extremely encouraging. Overall for the season he’s now hitting .279 with four homers, two doubles, and a .945 OPS in 11 games.
The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.
Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.
As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.