Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Picking up the White Sox' discards

Last season it was Joe Crede; the White Sox let him go after the 2008 season because they couldn't rely on his balky back. The Twins signed Crede and got 370 PAs of low production and plenty of day-to-day lineup absences before his back went out for the rest of the season.

Now it's Jim Thome, now deemed too one-dimensional by the White Sox front office. The Twins signed the veteran slugger on Tuesday.

It's an eminently reasonable contract — $1.5 million plus up to $750,000 in incentives. "Eminently reasonable" in this context means that if or when the the Twins conclude that he's just too one-dimensional to carry, he can be disposed of without great financial pain.

Which is what I expect is going to happen at some point this summer. I ranted about this before. Without being overly redundant, it's real difficult to have 25 percent of your "position player" reserves be somebody who can't play in the field.

Ron Gardenhire, quoted in the Star-Tribune story on the signing:
"A guy like Jim, he's not going to just come off the bench. We'll get plenty of at-bats for him. Kubel's my DH, and Delmon's my left fielder, and we all know that going into it, and Jim's going to play a role off the bench and spot play at DH."

That sounds like Gardenhire last spring talking about his outfield. As it turned out, he locked Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span into the lineup and spent most of the year trying to find a hot hand between Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young. When Young got going, Gardenhire locked Young into the lineup as well. There weren't "plenty of at-bats" for Gomez — he came to the plate less often than Crede.

There won't be "plenty of at-bats" for Thome either. That's just not how Gardy rolls.

I suspect this signing precludes the addition of a veteran infielder. Maybe it was a fallback because there wasn't going to be a signing of a veteran infielder.

Work through it: Say the Twins sign Crede. Now the bench is:
  • Reserve catcher (Jose Morales or, if his wrist is an issue, Drew Butera)
  • Reserve outfielder (Jason Pridie)
  • Thome
  • Brendan Harris (who just signed a two-year contract)
The obvious candidate in the regular lineup for Thome to pinch-hit for is Nick Punto. OK, so Thome pinch-hits and draws a walk. Now what?
  • He's about as slow as anybody in baseball other than the Molina brothers, so you have to pinch run for him. The one guy on that bench who runs well is Pridie.
  • Somebody has to play second base now, and the closest thing to that on this bench is Harris, and we know what Gardenhire thinks of that option.
Suddenly this one move has consumed three of the Twins' reserves. No, having Thome as a pinch-hit specialist means that either Matt Tolbert or Alexi Casilla is on the team, to pinch-run and to play second in Punto's stead. Which means Harris is the third baseman.


  1. I wouldn't assume that Jason Pridie has a spot just because there's no clear backup CF. Span led the team in PAs last year despite two weeks on the DL. He's not a guy that's going to need a day off very often, if at all. Kubel can back up the other OF spots with Thome filling in at DH. Plus, Punto has played the OF and Gardy talked about using Tolbert in the OF as well. If Span gets hurt, the Twins could use Punto or Tolbert in CF and even Cuddyer, who played there for a few games when Span and Gomez were down last year, until Pridie is called up.

  2. The best use for Thome is to platoon him with Delmon. Thome can't hit lefties, and Delmon can't hit righties, so when there's a righty starter you put Kubel in LF and Thome at DH. Kubel, while awful defensively, is really no worse than Delmon despite the age difference.