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Justin Morneau: Pros, Cons of White Sox Extension for 2017

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Aug 3, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau (44) hits a home run in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau (44) hits a home run in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Justin Morneau is off to a solid start with the White Sox, but he’s only played 27 games. What would be the pros and cons for the White Sox if they extended Morneau?

Since the White Sox waited a while to find a solid hitter to fill the D.H. role, a particular question has arisen. Should they try to bring back Justin Morneau in 2017? There are pros and cons to bringing back Morneau in 2017. With the White Sox still needing left-handed bat, here are some pros and cons of extending Morneau.

Pros:

Has proven he can still hit

Even though he is going to be 36 in 2017, it seems as though Morneau is not showing signs of slowing down with the bat. He has a batting average is .287 right now in 94 at bats, and can hit both righties (.288) and lefties (.286). Another positive is the fact  he can he can still get on base. He has done so with an overall OBP percentage of .327. Although a small sample size, this is much better production then the White Sox were getting out of anyone this season as DH.

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The team needs balance in the lineup-Morneau can provide that

While I don’t usually care much when it comes to which side of the plate someone hits from. However, it does help to break up a right-handed dominant middle of the order. The reason for that is in late-game situations an opposing manager would have to manage his bullpen differently. That is key when a team doesn’t have a dominant lefty reliever, which not all do. Not to mention, a man in the middle of the lineup who can hit for average and provide power is huge.

Cons:

Injuries-concussions especially

Morneau has had more than his fair share of concussions. It is to the point where he sometimes misses months due to post-concussion syndrome. That doesn’t even include the wrist injury he had, among other injuries. I could talk forever about Morneau’s injury history. It’s a serious issue when talking about a player that will be 36 next season. The most minor hit to the head could mean months on the shelf. Therefore I am not sure if Monreau could last an entire season without getting injured.

Lack of flexibility

Outside of designated hitter, there is absolutely nowhere to play Morneau, mostly due to the reasons listed in the paragraph above. Since the only way it would make sense to reserve a role for a D.H. is in a situation where you are trying to develop a player (see ’14 with Konerko/Abreu). Another alternative is if he is a superstar hitter.

Keep in mind that there are only 25 men allowed on an MLB roster. With twelve pitchers, and eight regular position players, that leaves you with a five-man bench. To take up one of those spots with a man that has no ability in the field, four spots on the bench makes little sense. At least it does in a situation where a team is trying to compete.

Overall, there are several reasons why going either direction would make sense. However, barring the team dealing Jose Abreu it doesn’t, meaning Morneau wouldn’t have anyone to mentor at first. On top of that, Morneau could retire at the end of 2016, which is very possible. Assuming the White Sox do want to contend in 2017, I don’t think they will bring back Morneau unless they are on “Plan C”, which they unfortunately have been on several occasions in years past.

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The risk of injury is too great. His current hitting might not keep up over a 162-game season, assuming he did get 600 at bats. Even though there are positives, the negatives outweigh them as we head into 2017. If you could guarantee that Morneau would stay healthy, I would re-sign him. However that’s not possible, meaning the White Sox shouldn’t bring him back. The White Sox need a bat that can absolutely rake in that role. Which is something Morneau can no longer do.

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