The Minnesota Twins signed Jim Thome to a one year contract that will guarantee the slugger $3 million and include incentives based on plate appearances. Manny Ramirez, Vladimir Guerrero and Johnny Damon are not impressed.
Last season, in 340 plate appearances, a renewed Thome cranked out 25 home runs and had an astounding 1.039 OPS, his best since 2002. As Aaron Gleeman points out at HardBall Talk:
Thome started just 34 of the Twins’ first 84 games last season, but then became an everyday player following Justin Morneau‘s season-ending concussion on July 7 and put up incredible numbers down the stretch. Morneau’s status remains a huge question mark, but if he’s healthy the Twins will again have five hitters for four lineup spots and manager Ron Gardenhire will have to stick Thome, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, or Jason Kubel on the bench each game.
Thome very clearly hits right handed pitching better than left, and I wonder how much of his success last season was due to less wear and tear on his 40 year old body from not playing everyday. The Twins might do well to keep Thome rested whenever they can, and that could be whenever a southpaw is on the mound.
But no matter how he’s used this coming season, it’s a great signing for Minnesota, who risk little money on a quality bat. Think about it this way, the Toronto Blue Jays were widely praised for signing Edwin Encarnacion to a guaranteed $3 million to play DH and fill in at first base this coming season. And while Encarnacion’s 21 dingers in 367 plate appearances might compare to Thome’s home run pace, his .787 OPS doesn’t even enter into Thome’s stratosphere.
And as an added bonus for Twins fans, Thome needs only 11 home runs to reach 600 for his career. The big designated hitter has also let it be known that he intends to go into recruiting mode to ensure that pitcher Carl Pavano resigns with the Minnesota as well.
The contract does run the risk of setting the bar fairly low for the three remaining DH types, none of whom put up better averages than Thome last season, but all of whom were probably looking for more money than Thome got.