Posted on June 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
With just three wins in their last 15 games, the Chicago White Sox are reaching the point of desperation and trying to shake things up. It started last week with the trade for James Shields, and the White Sox made another move, albeit a much smaller move, on Thursday when they agreed to sign first baseman Justin Morneau for the remainder of the season. The contract is worth $1 million, pro-rated for the remainder of the season, but could be worth more than $3 million with performance bonuses.
Morneau underwent elbow surgery in December and remained unsigned by any team through spring training, as the 35-year old works his way back to full health. The White Sox will immediately place Morneau on the 15-day DL. The team doesn’t expect him to be healthy enough to play until after the all-star break, which is still a little more than a month away. Despite being slow to recover from elbow surgery, Morneau still believes he can play. “When I picked up a bat again, it felt better than it did at any point last year,” he said. “I think I can do this again and I want to do this again.”
Injuries, including issues with concussions, limited Morneau to just 49 games last season with the Colorado Rockies. His career before that was plagued by injuries at times, although he did win the National League batting title in 2014 with a .319 average. Of course, Morneau spent most of his career with the Minnesota Twins, making four all-star teams during that span and winning the American League MVP award in 2006.
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From Chicago’s perspective, the team is willing to take a chance on a veteran like Morneau, as they’ve been largely unimpressed with the offensive production of first baseman Jose Abreu and designated hitter Avisail Garcia this season. White Sox manager Robin Ventura has also mentioned the need for a left-handed bat in an otherwise right-hand heavy lineup. Morneau could potentially fill that role after the White Sox lost a similar hitter in Adam LaRoche, who suddenly decided to retire during spring training.
Morneau’s days as a hitter with considerable amounts of power may be over, but after winning a batting title in 2014, it stands to reason that he can still hit for a high average if fully healthy. How much action he’ll see in the field also remains to be seen, but Mourneau has been a quality defensive first baseman throughout his career and would certainly be an upgrade over Abreu in that department.
The signing of Morneau can be considered a relatively minor move with no guarantee of paying off, but the White Sox should be commended for trying to do something to make an incremental improvement, considering both their recent struggles.The White Sox are also wrapped up in a tight and competitive four-team race in the AL Central, so any amount of improvement could make a difference at season’s end.
The risk of signing Morneau is small, so there is little harm done if Morneau doesn’t return to full health and doesn’t make a contribution this season. At this point, the White Sox should be willing to try just about anything to prevent their season from slipping away, and the signing of Morneau may turn out to be a move that helps turn their season around.