Trade Candidate: Justin Morneau

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Sep 3, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau (33) hits a single during the fifth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

As the season begins, we are profiling some potential trade candidates the Rockies may be able to move this summer in return for younger players. Let’s begin this series with Justin Morneau.

Fresh off winning the National League batting title in 2014, Justin Morneau returns to the Colorado Rockies having re-invigorated his career.

He’ll start at first base for the Rockies this year and help anchor the lineup – hopefully, while protecting a healthy Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

The contract. Morneau is due $6.75 million this season, with a mutual option in 2016 for $9 million (or a $750,000 buyout).

The history. Morneau is a veteran who has been traded late in the year before. In 2013, after spending his entire career with the Minnesota Twins, he was traded after the deadline in late August to the Pittsburgh Pirates to help their playoff push.

He was a disappointment for the month in Pittsburgh, only slugging .312, but he did rack up a .370 on base percentage in 92 plate appearances.

The tenure. Morneau won the batting title last year, slashing .319/.364/.496 in 550 plate appearances with 32 doubles and 17 home runs, and just 60 strikeouts. He’s been a revelation in Colorado as the first man to start at first base in the post-Todd Helton area.

The angle. Morneau’s mutual option, at $9 million, is a substantial increase from his salary the past two seasons. Additionally, he’s a veteran and four-time All Star with 5,992 plate appearances to his name that could help a team down the stretch who needs a first baseman or designated hitter.

It would make sense for the club to flip him near the Trade Deadline on July 31st if the Rockies are far out of contention and looking to re-build and dump salary.

The replacement. Matt McBride. The Rockies minor league first baseman, who should spend most of the year in AAA, had a monster Spring Training with four doubles and four home runs and only five strikeouts in 53 plate appearances.

He won’t replace Morneau long-term, considering he’s going to be 30 years old during the year, but for a few months until the Rockies decide what to do about first base next offseason, McBride would be the guy.

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