Ever since Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire mentioned to the media a couple of days ago that he would like to add a potent bat
to his bench, conversations among Twins fans have revolved around just one player; Jim Thome. And why not? Twins fans’ memories of the hulking, Paul Bunyan-esque slugger look glowing to 2010.
Thome came to the Twins and, in 108 games, he hit .283/.412/.627 (1.039). It was his best OPS since 2002. He gave fans many very lasting memories. I was at the game against the White Sox when he hit the walk-off homer against Matt Thornton and the White Sox. He hit his 600th
home run for the Twins. He played a memorable role in Harmon Killebrew’s memorial service at Target Field. And there was his commercial with the big, blue ox.
Late in the 2011 season, the Twins traded him back to Cleveland, where he began his career. Many thought that was the close of his career, but when Charley Manuel called him and asked if he wanted to pinch hit for the Phillies, he jumped at the opportunity, even willing to bring a glove to the ballpark. At the end of June, he had just 70 plate appearances in 30 games. The Phillies were out of it and traded Thome to the surprising Orioles where he played in two less games but accumulated 35 more plate appearances. Combined, he hit .252/.344/.442 (.780) with seven doubles and eight home runs.
Why should the Twins sign Thome? He is a better hitter, even at 42, than the guys on the Twins projected bench. He might hit 6-8 home runs. He is a legend, a future Hall of Famer, and a great person. He would be very inexpensive.
Why should the Twins not sign Thome? Well, he is 42. He can’t play defense. He can’t run. If he walks, he’ll need a pinch runner. He gets hurt a lot. The Twins have lots of options for the DH/1B spots with Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, Joe Mauer, Chris Parmelee. A right handed bat makes more sense. Thome has not been successful most of his career as a pinch hitter, and he doesn’t hit left-handed pitching well.
As you can see, as much as I like Thome and respect him tremendously, I just don’t think it makes any baseball sense to bring back Thome. That is not to say that I would be disappointed if they signed him though.
However, there are some other options remaining on the free agent market. A couple of the below players may make more sense to the Twins than Thome, and a couple of them obviously make no sense.
– Abreu will turn 39 years old on March 11. He has had a tremendous career hitting .292/.396/.477 (.873). However, the last time he posted an OPS of .800 was 2009 with the Angels. He began the 2012 season with the Angels, but before the end of April, he was released after playing just eight games. A week later, he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he hit .246/.361/.344 (.704) in 92 games. He has always had great plate discipline which might help him as a late-inning option and a veteran some of the young players could emulate.
– Damon will be 39 years old through the 2013 season. In his 18 year career, he hit .284/.352/.433 (.785). He had some very good years with the Royals, the Red Sox and then the Yankees, but the last few years have not been good. The Boras-client has been a one-year guy the last three seasons. He spent 2010 with the Tigers, 2011 with the Rays, and last year, he signed with Cleveland on April 17 for $1.25 million. He was released in early August after hitting .222/.281/.329 (.610) in 64 games.
– Lee did not play in 2012 after splitting the 2011 season with Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Combined, he posted a .771 OPS in 113 games. Although he will be 37 years old through most of the season, it is unlikely that he returns in 2013.
– Carlos Lee’s six year, $100 million contract is over. Although his power dropped significantly through those six year (to just eight in 2012), he was able to remain healthy. In 2012, he was traded from Houston to the Miami Marlins for two minor leaguers. In 147 games last year, the burly right-hander hit .264/.332/.365 (.697). In his 14 year career, he hit .285/.339/.483 (.821), although he hasn’t had an OPS that high since 2009. He also no longer can really play in the outfield. The intrigue with Lee is that he is a right-handed bat to compliment all of the Twins left-handed bats.
– “Pods” provides no power to the bench, but his name has been thrown around the rumor mill in connection with the Twins. Why? I have no idea. In 2009, he played for the White Sox and Rockies. In 2010, he played for the Royals and Dodgers. In 2011, he played in the minor leagues in the Blue Jays and Phillies organizations. In 2012, he played for the Red Sox, but he was traded to the Diamondbacks on July 31, but Arizona released him two days later and he re-signed with the Red Sox. In 64 games for Boston, he hit .302/.322/.352 (.674). He has stolen 309 bases in his 11 year big league career. He will also turn 37 in mid-March.
– The seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner has been hurt quite a bit the last two seasons. In 92 games in 2012, he hit .245/.318/.398 (.716). In 65 games in 2011, he hit .242/.279/.397 (.676). He has had a lot of back problems and turns 38 just after opening day. He’s had a terrific 17-year big league career, but retirement and a lot of spa time would seem to make the most sense.
– The 33-year-old utility infielder has been part of the past two World Series teams, the 2011 Cardinals and the 2012 Giants. Last year with the Giants, he played 91 games at second base and hit .270/.316/.321 (.637). His career OPS is .691, but he hasn’t approached that number since 2009.
So, as you can see, there are other bench options that the Twins could still considering signing via free agency. None of them are particularly appealing. Maybe there are some trade possibilities, but frankly, since 2013 is about rebuilding, why would the team give up any prospect for a part-time player?
This is certainly a hot topic among Twins fans since, well, there isn’t much to talk about. What do you think?