The Pirates picked up Marlon Byrd and John Buck in a deal with the Mets earlier this week, but they aren’t done bolstering their offense. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pirates have acquired first baseman Justin Morneau from the Twins for outfielder Alex Presley.
Morneau passed through waivers earlier this month, so he was eligible to be traded to any team. The 32-year-old is batting .259/.315/.426 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI in 127 games this season, though it’s worth noting that nine of those home runs have come this month. The alternatives at first base include Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, so it’s worth a shot to attempt to catch some lightening in a bottle down the stretch. Morneau will be a free agent at season’s end.
The trade marks an unceremonious end to Morneau’s time in Minnesota. A third-round pick of the Twins in 1999, he compiled a .278/.347/.485 batting line over 11 seasons with the club and amassed 1,318 hits and 221 home runs (he moved into fourth place on the team’s all-time list by passing Tony Oliva last night). He won the American League MVP Award in 2006 and also made four All-Star appearances.
Presley, 28, owns a .261/.299/.419 batting line over 204 games in the majors. He’s likely a fourth or fifth outfielder on a good team, so it’s a modest price to pay for Pittsburgh.
UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the Twins will also receive a player to be named later or cash considerations.
UPDATE II: Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates will cover Morneau’s salary for the rest of the season.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.