Morneau Now on Twins Trade Waivers

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The talk about trading Justin Morneau is getting more and more serious, and it could happen soon. According to two top officials with access to the waiver wire, the Twins have placed Morneau on trade waivers yesterday.

The 48-hour waiver period expires at noon Wednesday. Claims are awarded in reverse order of standings at the time of the waiver expiration, with teams in a given player’s league having first priority.

Teams that still have playoff aspirations and a perceived need for help at first base or designated hitter are, the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox would currently have first dips on Morneau, in that order.

That means it could be difficult for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who lead the NLC with baseball’s second-best record, to be awarded a waiver claim on Morneau, who entering Tuesday was hitting .262 with 14 home runs and 67 runs batted in. The Pirates were among a handful of teams believed to have the most interest in dealing for him at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

“There’s nothing I can do, so I’m not going to worry about it too much,” Morneau said before Tuesday’s game. “It’s not possible to put it out of your mind. It’s a reality, but it’s out of my control.”

Morneau is still owed $3.67 million as he faces free agency this offseason. He hit just eight home runs in the first four months this season, but has since made up for that and has hit six homers in August, in a span of 12 games and just 52 at-bats.

That included three homers over the weekend at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, which always has been one of his favorite road parks as a hitter.

“The ball can fly out of there pretty good, especially in summertime,” Morneau said. “I felt good. The swing’s been a lot more consistent. I found something with my hands working a little better, and it’s allowed me to wait a little bit longer and to trust my swing a little bit more.”

“I don’t think a hot streak or a cold streak will affect that (his trade value) too much,” Morneau said over the weekend. “If there’s a team that feels like you can contribute, if they feel like it’s worth giving up something, that will happen. If not, I’m happy here.”

There are four scenarios could play out once Morneau’s waiver period expires Wednesday.

In the first, the claiming team would succeed in working out a trade within the maximum 48 hours with the Twins, although Minnesota showed little interest in July of defraying any of the slugger’s remaining salary.

In the second, they would not be able to work out a trade and the Twins would revoke their waivers request on Morneau, meaning he could not be traded this year.

In the third, the Twins could simply allow the claiming team to be awarded Morneau and the remaining obligation on the six-year, $80 million contract he signed in January 2008.

Finally, Morneau could pass through waivers without any team claiming him. That would enable to Twins to discuss trading him to any team for the remainder of this season.

One National League club official wouldn’t be surprised if Morneau changes teams without the Twins receiving anything in return.

“I could see the claim being awarded — if there were a claim,” the official said. “I think (Twins general manager Terry Ryan) might be more inclined to move the player and the money.”

The official termed Oakland a “dark horse,” Boston a “potential suitor” and Tampa Bay where Morneau “might fit best because he’s a nice player for what they try to do.”

However, the primary stumbling block remains Morneau’s remaining obligation, which could eliminate clubs such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Orioles made three significant pitching acquisitions before the deadline, and money always is an issue for the Pirates.

“That money ($3.67 million),” the official said, “for a month and a half is a little steep.”