Padres Editorial: Is Justin Morneau an Option for the Padres?

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Mandatory Credit: (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mandatory Credit: (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Following a season marred by a nearly career ending concussion, on Thursday the Colorado Rockies declined the $9 million dollar option remaining on Justin Mourneau’s contract. Instead of bringing him back for one more season at the age of 34, the Rockies decided to instead buyout his contract, paying him $750,000 dollars in the process, and moving forward with young first baseman Ben Paulsen instead.

Despite his age and injury concerns, Mourneau has proven he can still hit at the big league. Mourneau won his first and only MVP award in 2006 with the Minnesota Twins before experiencing quite a decline in performance in his final few years with the team.

Following a short half-year stint with the Pirates in 2013 following a trade, Mourneau signed a free agent deal with the Rockies and had a resurgent season in 2014, on his way to a National League Batting Title, the first of his career. With an early season concussion that knocked Mourneau out for most of the season, 2015 was a completely different story entirely.

Even with a severe concussion that cost him three plus months of the 2015 season, and almost cost him the remainder of his career, Mourneau came back in September for the Rockies and proved he still can hit big league pitching rather effectively. Over the final month plus of the season (also including the few games in October) Mourneau hit .385 in twenty-seven games played. Mourneau finished the season with a .310 average in only forty-nine games played but proved not only to the Rockies, but to all of baseball, that he could still be a good contributor.

With Mourneau hitting the free agent market, the San Diego Padres may consider the possibility of bringing in the veteran to provide a strong presence to the middle of the lineup. While Mourneau has shown he can still hit at a high level, his age and injury problems still bring up some big question marks that must be considered.

More than anything the Padres need more power and more consistency from the first base position. Over the last several years, Yonder Alonso has played a majority of the time at first base for the Padres, although he has struggled to remain healthy and has also had a tough time staying consistent even when healthy. Despite his late season resurgence last season, Mourneau may be more of the same with declining power numbers and injury concerns still fresh in everyone’s minds.

Justin Morneau is definitely one of the best hitting first baseman in terms of average in all of baseball. Even with his injury last season and his ever-increasing age, Morneau should draw a good amount of interest on the free agent market from several teams. While Morneau may not be the right fit for the Padres, it is still an option that A.J. Preller and company should evaluate fully before making a final decision.

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