Long rumored to be a trade candidate, Twins first baseman Justin Monreau has finally been dealt.
Minnesota traded Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday in exchange for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash.
Morneau, 32, has spent his entire major league career with Minnesota after the Twins drafted him in the third round in 1999. He won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2006 and also won the Home Run Derby in 2008. But Morneau battled injuries from 2009-11, including a concussion that limited his 2010 season to just 81 games.
For the Twins, it was hard to say goodbye to a player who has been in the organization for 14 years.
“He was here from Day 1. My first time as manager, he was on the club,” Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire said. “It was not an easy thing that happened. The only good part of it for me is that he’s going into a pennant race, and I’m very excited to see him be able to do that. …
“He loves this time of year and that kind of baseball. I’m very happy for him in that respect, (but) it’s very hard to lose him inside this clubhouse.”
While Morneau got off to a slow start in 2013, his power has started to come around. After hitting the eventual game-winning home run Friday against Texas, Morneau now has 17 home runs this season. Through Friday, he’s batting .259 with 74 RBI in 127 games.
Still, as a free agent at the end of the season, a trade seemed likely as Minnesota is by no means in the playoff chase. Morneau now joins a Pirates team currently tied with St. Louis for first place in the National League Central.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to go to a ballclub that’s in contention and get into a playoff atmosphere,” Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. “We’re not in that right now, unfortunately. … We got together and we talked about a few things, an ultimately he’s on his way to the Pirates. We wished him good luck, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Several Twins players took to Twitter shortly after news broke to react to the trade.
“I’m going to miss 33,” third baseman Trevor Plouffe tweeted. “He’s been a great influence on me, and I wish him nothing but the best! The Pirates are getting a professional.”
Twins closer Glen Perkins also reacted to the news, albeit with his usual humorous twist.
“I heard Morneau is gonna catch with Russell Martin moving to shortstop for the Pirates,” Perkins tweeted.
Reliever Brian Duensing added: “Gonna miss Morneau. Learned a lot about how to carry myself at this level from him. Great person and player. Pirates are lucky to have him.”
Presley, 28, was the Pirates’ eighth-round pick in 2006. He appeared in 29 games with Pittsburgh this year and hit .264 with two home runs and four RBI in 72 at-bats. In 104 games in 2012, Presley hit .237 with 10 homers and 25 RBI.
“He’s a catalyst-type guy,” Ryan said. “He’s a guy that can hit one, two, eight. He can run. He throws enough to play left, center, right. He can steal a base. He probably shouldn’t hit the ball in the air much because he’s not a power guy. He can hit one once in a while. He’s an athlete. He’s been in the big leagues some. He should fit in here fine.”
FOX Sports North’s Jamie Hersch contributed to this report.