With the news that the Colorado Rockies will not be bringing back Justin Morneau for the 2016 season breaking this week, at least one team should be intrigued by the possibility of bringing in the 34-year-old, former MVP. The left-handed hitting Morneau would be an excellent fit for the right-handed heavy Baltimore Orioles. Whether Morneau wishes to continue playing in 2016 following another brush with a concussion in May this year remains to be seen.
Head injuries have been a problem throughout the big Canadian’s big league career, but he did come back towards the end of the season. In two years with the Rockies, Morneau won a batting title and slashed .316/.363/.487 with an OPS+ of 120. While some of that can be attributed to the thin Coors Field air, Morneau is a professional hitter who is still getting the job done late in his career.
Morneau is a perfect fit for the Orioles lineup. He’s left-handed and gets on base while not striking out. Morneau has only had two 100-strikeout seasons in his 13-year career, and both came while he was battling the lingering effects of his first concussions while still with the Minnesota Twins. The Orioles lineup became very stagnant late in the season while the team sat around waiting for the home run. Morneau would hit his fair share of homers at Camden Yards, but he could be counted on to provide a .350-.360 OBP in the fifth or sixth spot in the lineup. More importantly, he would be able to return to the DH role.
The Orioles have had some success with late-career DH types during the Dan Duquette era in Baltimore. Morneau would likely command a deal similar to the one-year, $8 MM deal Nelson Cruz signed with the Orioles before the 2014 season. To increase the chances of convincing Morneau to come to Baltimore, the Orioles could offer plenty of incentives as well as an option for 2017.
Adding Justin Morneau would be the type of low-risk, high-reward move that has pushed the Orioles back into playoff form. Morneau is likely to continue playing in 2016, but will have to determine the best possible fit as he moves into the latter stages of his career. Baltimore seems like a match made in heaven.