The Colorado Rockies finally finished filling out their coaching staff on Tuesday, allowing them to now turn their full attention to "aggressively" pursuing free-agent first baseman Justin Morneau, reports Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
The Rockies have been linked to Morneau for a few weeks now, but this is the first word that is one of the club's primary targets. Earlier rumors listed the Canadian slugger as a sort of dark horse candidate behind Mike Napoli and James Loney, but now it seems Colorado has their sights affixed on the former AL MVP.
Morneau, 32, hasn't been the same player since suffering a severe concussion in 2010. The lefty-swinging slugger has, thankfully, been healthy enough to play most of the last two seasons, but his numbers haven't come close to returning to his MVP levels.
A late-season splurge of home runs this past season -- nine in August -- gave some hope that Morneau was returning to form, and allowed the Twins to deal him to the Pirates right before the waiver trade cut-off, but he then proceeded to slug an empty .312 in his month with Pittsburgh.
Since returning to full-time play in 2012, Morneau has hit .263/.328/.424 with 36 home runs in just over 1,200 plate appearances. While his production is still above replacement-level -- especially when his plus defense comes into play -- it is well below his career norms and might not be enough to warrant a starting role.
Morneau has never had much luck hitting left-handed pitching, but his issues with southpaws have become amplified over the last two years. He hit an anemic .207/.247/.278 in 178 plate appearances against lefties in 2013, indicating that he might be better suited for a platoon role at this point in his career.
Colorado hasn't had to organize a search for a first baseman since Todd Helton came onto the scene way back in 1997, so the team is sort of stepping into uncharted territory this winter. In addition to Morneau, Napoli and Loney, the Rockies have also recently been linked with Angels slugger Mark Trumbo, though Los Angeles is believed to be "reluctant" to deal him.