Orioles place waiver claim on Twins OF Josh Willingham, source says
O's working on a deal, but Minnesota can still hold onto 34-year-old slugger
Josh Willingham had career highs with 35 homers and 115 RBIs last season, but has struggled this year , hitting .215 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 312 at-bats. (Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports / August 22, 2013)
The Orioles have until Friday afternoon — 48 hours after making the claim — to broker a trade with the Twins, who would likely need a prospect in return. If the teams can’t reach a deal, the Twins can pull Willingham off waivers and keep him on their roster.
During the trade waiver process that began this month, the Orioles have claimed several players, according to multiple sources.
One industry source said it appears the Twins are more motivated to trade first baseman Justin Morneau, who is a pending free agent, than Willingham, who has a year-plus left on his contract. But Willingham, a right-handed hitter, fits better for the Orioles than the lefty Morneau.
The Orioles and Twins have discussed Morneau since July’s non-trade-waiver period ended, another source said. But there’s no indication of the seriousness of those talks. The Orioles seemed lukewarm in acquiring Morneau in July. He reportedly has since cleared trade waivers.
The 34-year-old Willingham, who had career highs with 35 homers and 110 RBIs last season, has struggled this season, hitting .215/.347/.391 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 312 at-bats (88 games). He missed more than five weeks with a knee injury and just returned from the disabled list on Aug. 9.
Willingham hasn’t been the same hitter since the injury — he’s hitting .182 since returning from the DL — but the Orioles can use another right-handed power bat as they look to face a heavy dose of left-handed pitching down the stretch.
Willingham is making $7 million this season, so the Orioles would be on the hook for roughly $1.1 million.
Willingham is in the second season of a three-year, guaranteed $21 million contract. He’s slated to make $7 million next season, but that escalates by an additional $1 million if he makes more than 525 plate appearances this season.