The Colorado Rockies Missed the Boat on Justin Morneau

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Sep 1, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies pinch hitter Ben Paulsen (4) and first base coach Eric Young (21) celebrate his two run home run in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Rockies have traded Justin Morneau this off-season? I think so.

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In 2014 Justin Morneau had an incredible season. One which was likely worthy of Comeback Player of the Year honors. He hit .319 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI’s while winning an National League batting title. He was a huge bright spot on a dismal Rockies season marred, yet again, by injuries. More impressive is that he did this after suffering through 4 years of sub par performances that didn’t at all look like he one time MVP and 4-time All-Star of years past.

In July of 2010, Morneau suffered a concussion while sliding into 2nd base and coming into contact with the knee of second basemen John McDonald. For the next 4 years Morneau struggled through post concussion symptoms that directly effected his day to day play. Post concussion syndrome can feature slowed reaction times and trouble tracking fast-moving objects.

Both things hurt his production and took the shine of an MVP type player who carried the Minnesota Twins for a number of years. At the end of 2013 Morneau became a free agent. The Rockies took a flyer on him on the recommendation of then outfield Michael Cuddyer. They signed him for just under 13mm for two years. With the retirement of Todd Helton, the Rockies were in desperate need for production from the middle of the lineup and most importantly, the 1B position. As we all know, he put together an impressive season and likely had significant trade value over the winter.

The Miami Marlins need for a first basemen, Morneau’s value coming off a big season, and their pitching depth, made them the perfect fit during the winter of 2014/2015. A deal between the Marlins and Rockies was rumored for a few weeks, but eventually fell apart, likely due to the Rockies desire to get top tier pitching back. Throughout the rest of the winter nothing else materialized.

Why is all this relevant now? Well,Morneau is on the disabled list after suffering another concussion, likely sapping him of any remaining trade value. He wasn’t exactly knocking the cover off of the ball before his injury, hitting .290 with9RBI’s in 100 at-bats. The bigger issue is the fact that the Rockies have two players, with productive bats, who have no place to play. Both younger. Both healthier. They could have traded Morneau for pitching prospects, which we all know they desperately need, and given Wilin Rosario a place to play after he lost his catching job with the signing of Nick Hundley.

Rosario battled injuries last year, which to me, makes his offensive numbers an aberration.When healthy, he’s a big, powerful right-handed bat. In 2012 and 2013 he hit a combined 49 home runs to go along with150RBI’s. Why wouldn’t you want that bat in your lineup everyday? He’s not going to be as good defensively asHelton orMorneau, but I’d imagine he’d be very serviceable and his offensive numbers would offset any defensive miscues by a large margin. Instead he’s relegated to occasional first base duty and DH/pinch hitter. The other problem is that by not letting other teams in the league see that he’s healthy and productive again, the Rockies have kept Rosario from having any value on the trade market. The other player well worth noting is the emergence of Ben Paulsen.

As our editor Bobby DeMuro noted in a previous article,  Paulsen’s play both defensively and at the plate in limited duty makes it really hard to not play him everyday and really see what they have. Since being called up Paulsen is hitting .350, 3HR and 10RBI’s in 15 games. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but in light of the above noted situation, it can’t be ignored. Plus how can you not love a guy with a ‘stache like that?!

Whether or not the Rockies management’s arrogance and over-valuation of talent is what torpedoed the Marlins deal last winter, and also kept them from exploring others, we’ll never know. It seems that’s been the case in a number of potential trades over the years. This one is likely not much different. Shortly, it’ll be time for the management to figure out who they’re going to stick with at first base and who gets dealt. It’s hard to think Rosario and Morneau have a lot of market value at this point though.

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