Twins have contacted the Orioles about Morneau

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Minnesota Twins are devoting part of these Winter Meetings to gauging outside interest in first baseman Justin Morneau, and the Orioles are counted among the teams they’ve contacted, according to an industry source.

The Twins would want - wait for it - young pitching in return for Morneau, who will make $14 million in 2013, the final year of his contract.

It’s possible that the Twins are just testing the waters rather than actively shopping Morneau. General manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in August that Morneau, 31, was “one of the most important people in this organization, no doubt,” and suggested the first baseman would return next year. But they’re floating his name at these meetings.

Morneau, a four-time All-Star, was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2006 and was runner-up in 2008. He sustained a concussion while sliding into second base on July 7, 2010 and missed the remainder of the season and the playoffs. He was limited to 69 games in 2011 because post-concussion symptoms, surgery in July to repair pinched nerves in his neck and a left shoulder injury.

Morneau appeared in 134 games this year, batting .267/.333/.440 with 26 doubles, 19 homers and 77 RBIs.

The Orioles’ top priority is finding a bat for the middle of their lineup, either at first base, left field or designated hitter. It makes sense that the Twins would reach out to them, even if it’s just to measure their level of interest as Morneau approaches free agency.

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette is hoping to pull off a trade before returning to Baltimore on Thursday, but he’s also suggested that it could take a little longer. He met with at least five teams on Tuesday.

A power bat and a veteran starting pitcher remain atop the shopping list. Duquette also has engaged in talks regarding relievers, though the bullpen was the main strength of this year’s team and appears to be full barring a trade.

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