“Hopefully I’ve shown enough, but you never know,” said the free agent-to-be. “If the right opportunity is not there, the choice might not be up to me. At this point, I would lean toward I still enjoy the work and still would like to (play), but it also has to make sense at this point with my family and spending time away and all that stuff.”
Potential factors working against a Morneau return include his poor 2016 output and health issues. The 2006 American League MVP and longtime Twin didn’t debut this year until mid-July after undergoing offseason elbow surgery. Moreover, the 35-year-old has been out of Chicago’s lineup since Monday with what he calls “old-man neck.” When he has played this year, Morneau has registered a career-worst .256/.295/.430 line with five home runs in 183 plate appearances. He has also recorded the lowest walk rate of his career (4.9 percent) to go with a subpar strikeout rate of 25.7 percent.
Morneau isn’t far removed from amassing far more respectable production, as he batted .310/.363/.458 in one fewer PA (182) with the Rockies last season and posted a much better 13.7 percent strikeout rate. The year before, he appeared in 135 of the Rockies’ games, totaled 550 PAs and won the National League batting title with a .319 average. Given that he was in the NL then, Morneau had to play first base in order to crack Colorado’s lineup. With the White Sox, Morneau hasn’t taken the field. If the four-time All-Star does return next year, he hopes to at least log some time with the glove.
“If you had told me when I came up that I’d miss playing defense, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Morneau said. “It’s something that is important and I like doing and I want to get back to it.”
In addition to his desire to serve as a defender again, Morneau would unsurprisingly like to play for a contender, per Kane. The White Sox, who signed him to a $1MM deal in June, don’t fit that description as of now. Whether they’ll enter next season as a hopeful playoff team or a club in a rebuild remains to be seen, but manager Robin Ventura believes Morneau is still capable of contributing.
“He can hit. He can still play. There’s no question about that,” Ventura said. “If he can physically withstand it, he’s going to be valuable to somebody.”
Unfortunately for Morneau, injury issues – including multiple concussions – have helped derail a decorated career. Morneau’s first concussion came in July 2010 and prematurely ended what may have been another MVP-winning season. His production has declined to a notable extent since.