The regular season hasn’t even started and those Justin Morneau-to-Toronto rumours have already begun.
The 31-year-old Minnesota Twins first baseman and 2006 AL MVP will earn $14 million in 2013 in the final year of his current deal, making him a likely trade target later this summer for contending teams in search of a power bat.
The Twins are unlikely to contend in 2013, but the Toronto Blue Jays are AL East favourites in the eyes of many.
Toronto currently has Adam Lind pencilled in as its No. 5 hitter at DH/first base, but the team could be looking for an upgrade this summer should Lind once again get off to a slow start.
In an interview with foxsports.com’s Jon Morosi, Morneau said his preference is to remain in Minnesota but if he is going to move on, Toronto would be one of his preferred destinations.
“That was my favorite team growing up, so that would be very cool,” the New Westminster, B.C. native said. “If I have to leave here — where I have grown up, the only organization I’ve known — then hopefully it’s (with) a chance to win.
“I would prefer it to be here, with us making the trades to add guys. But (Toronto is) one of those intriguing places, where if you win you have the whole country behind you. I grew up in Vancouver, and I was a Blue Jays fan. It’s nationwide. … It would be cool, but like I said: I would rather win here.”
If Morneau is going to be traded anywhere in 2013, he must first prove he is healthy.
Beginning in 2009, concussions and surgeries on his wrist, neck and knee have forced him to spend considerable time on the disabled list.
In 2012, a healthier and rejuvenated Morneau appeared in 134 games for Minnesota and hit righties at a .290/.371/.531/.902 clip with 17 home runs in 356 plate appearances.
Earlier this month Morneau reported to Twins camp following his first off-season of regular workouts in years.
In early March, Morneau will be suiting up for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic. And like everyone else surrounding the team, he says he’s curious to see how Team Canada’s much-maligned pitching performs in the tournament.
“The bullpen, I think, matches up with anybody, with (John) Axford and (Jesse) Crain at the end,” he said. “We’ve got some real good arms down there. I’m interested to see (Pirates pitching prospect Jameson) Taillon. What game he starts, I don’t know.
“I always enjoy playing with Joey Votto. I think he’s probably the best left-handed hitter in the game right now. It’s always fun just being around those guys. It’s pretty much the same cast of characters every time. We have fun. We enjoy the game. We enjoy each other.”