Morneau, 35, signed a one-year Major League deal with the Sox earlier this summer. He sat out the early portion of the season whilst recovering from offseason elbow surgery but has since completed a rehab assignment with the Sox, who will hope that he can add some left-handed pop to the middle of their lineup. In that sense, Morneau will fill the role that Adam LaRoche was expected to occupy when he signed prior to the 2015 season, though his pro-rated $1MM salary obviously comes at a fraction of the salary LaRoche forfeited when he retired in Spring Training.
It’s now been a decade since Morneau was named the American League MVP, but he had a pair of productive, albeit injury-shortened seasons with the Rockies in 2014-15. With Colorado, Morneau captured the National League batting title in 2014, and he hit a combined .316/.363/.487 in 184 games as a member of the Rockies. Playing his home games in Coors Field added those numbers, to be sure, but Morneau was as difficult to strike out as ever with the Rox — his 15.2 percent career strikeout rate is considerably lower than most power hitters — and was quite productive even on the road in 2014, suggesting that there’s still life left in his bat.
Health, of course, has been an issue for Morneau, who had what was shaping up to be his best season cut short in June 2010 when he suffered a concussion that plagued him for several years to come. He’s also undergone neck surgery and further concussions since taking a career-altering knee to the head while sliding into second base back in that 2010 season.
Morneau played in just eight games on his rehab assignment with the Sox, so there’s certainly a chance that he’ll be rusty out of the gate. However, the Sox have utilized Avisail Garcia as their primary designated hitter this season, and the once-promising outfielder has continued his big league struggles with a .232/.301/.332 batting line in 276 plate appearances. The ChiSox will hope that their former division rival can inject some life into that spot in the lineup as the club looks to remain in the race for the American League Central title or a Wild Card spot. Chicago currently trails Cleveland by seven games in the Central and is 4.5 games back from a Wild Card spot.