Forget the birth certificate and take this to the bank: The all-in Toronto Blue Jays will target Justin Morneau if the Minnesota Twins make him available. Nobody in the Blue Jays organization will say otherwise.
Morneau stepped in it earlier this spring when he told Foxsports.com that playing for the Blue Jays would be “cool.”
Morneau, who will make $14-million (U.S.) in this, the final year of his contract, reversed field slightly after his comments created controversy, coming as they did at a time when the Twins are uncertainly retooling. But those who know the New Westminster, B,.C., native maintain he would be open to a deal, and that there was truth behind his statement that: “[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. I would be cool, but like I said: I’d rather win here [Minnesota].”
Morneau went 2-for-4 with a double Tuesday in an 8-4 Twins win over the Blue Jays, playing for the third day in a row as he prepared to represent Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
Like everybody else with Baseball Canada, Morneau was surprised at Russell Martin’s bizarre decision to back out because neither the Pittsburgh Pirates nor Team Canada would allow him to play shortstop instead of catch. Martin is a converted infielder but he’s never played shortstop in the Majors. “The desire to play the position … I think that’s kind of got everybody wondering what the decision-making process was behind that,” he said.
Morneau is willing to play first base or be a designated hitter for Team Canada, and while his batting average against left-handed pitching has fallen since he suffered a serious concussion in July, 2010 – he hit just .232 against lefties in 2012, at one point in June batting .097 against southpaws – a motivated Morneau, playing for a contract, might be an upgrade over Adam Lind, who will have a shorter leash than any other hitter in the lineup under John Gibbons. Lind has looked good early in the spring – “He’s off to a good start,” said Gibbons. “He’s bearing down. He knows it’s a big spring for him.”
Edwin Encarnacion deserves to be the Blue Jays’ Opening Day first baseman, but it’s not out of the question that a contending team with money to spend might look at some type of DH-first base rotation between he and Morneau.
In fact, in the case of the Blue Jays, it’s likely.