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)
- Brendan Harris (who just signed a two-year contract)
- 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.