Sunday, January 24, 2010

How would Jim Thome fit?

The notion that the Twins might sign Jim Thome — even at a bargain-basement price — is baffling.

Thome is a 39-year-old limited to hitting duties — he hasn't played in the field since 2007 and has logged a total of 28 innings the last four season combined — whose numbers against left-handed pitching have deteriorated to the point that he's essentially a platoon player.

The Twins have a left-handed hitting DH in Jason Kubel. They also like to use the DH slot to give Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau partial days off — keep their bats in the lineup but their bodies sitting.

There's no fit there. Thome would be a pinch-hit specialist, and one can see the value in having him swing that dangerous bat in Nick Punto's stead come the ninth inning of a one-run game against the likes of Bobby Jenks or Jose Valverde.

But if that's all he does, can the Twins afford to carry him? It's tough to see it with a 25-man roster and 12 pitchers. The Twins back in 1991-92 carried Randy Bush as a pinch-hit specialist, but they rostered just 10 pitchers back then.

Assuming that Brendan Harris is the regular third baseman, the bench right now projects out thusly:
  • Jose Morales, backup catcher (or possibly Drew Butera, same role).
  • Jason Pridie, backup outfielder (legs and glove to spell Denard Span).
  • Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla, utility infielder.
  • This could be Thome's roster spot. But that doesn't leave a lot of depth among guys who can actually play in the field.
And if they sign another infielder, Harris moves to a reserve slot. Which, depending on how the infield is configured, might bump Tolbert or Casilla, nor might not. We already know Ron Gardenhire doesn't think Harris is a competent second baseman.

Of course, the Phillies carried Matt Stairs all season — but they, by virtue of not playing in a DH league, had an extra bench slot. (Eight regulars plus 12 pitchers equals five reserve position players; in the Twins case, Kubel becomes a ninth regular.)

Meanwhile the White Sox — who have said all winter they were going to split the DH job up among multiple players — are suddenly talking abut bringing him back. But Ozzie Guillen apparently plans to carry 13 pitchers — and if it's tough to carry such a limited player with a 12-pitcher roster, it's even more difficult with 13.


  1. Bench Delmon, Kubel in LF, Thome DH vs. righties.

  2. If you're going to have a one-dimensional player on the bench, let it be a left-handed offensive player. Leave Pridie in AAA. The Twins can afford to risk playing Cuddyer or Tolbert in CF for a few innings or even a game if Span got hurt. That's all the time you'll need to call up Pridie. Thome would add more depth we need to be concerned about because you won't pinch-hit, pinch-run or need a defensive replacement for Span and he's young enough to play every day. The Twins should be more concerned about depth in case Morneau or Cuddyer gets hurt or Delmon just really sucks. Since Kubel can play the corner OF, he can move there if he needs to, allowing room for Thome to DH. If Morneau gets hurt, or even needs a day off, Cuddyer goes to first, Kubel to right and Thome to DH. Do you recall Morales being the Twins DH at the end of the season last year?

    Plus, with no Thome, Morales is the only lefty on the bench worthy of PH. Do you think Gardy will PH for an infielder with his only backup catcher and then turn around and replace him with another infielder? So, that would leave Tolbert or Pridie to PH unless the Twins keep Butera as a third catcher so they can use Morales. Now you're wasting a short bench with a third catcher whose only purpose is to make it so Gardy can use Morales. Might as well get a better hitter than Morales.

  3. Signed for 1.5 million and can get to 2.2 in incentives. I don't know how that is a bad deal.