Sunday, October 31, 2010

The market for Jim Thome

Jim Thome, as is well known, signed with the Twins late in the offseason for a team-friendly $1.5 million guarantee plus playing time incentives. He settled on the Twins in part because there wasn't a lot of demand for him.

And, as is also well known, he had a spectacular season in a part-time role: 25 homers in just 340 plate appearances and his highest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage since 2006. It was a great investment for the Twins.

Thome becomes a free agent again after the World Series, and the speculation is that it will take $4 million to sign him.

Jim Thome provided plenty of memories for Twins fans
in 2010, few of them better than his walk-off homer
off Matt Thornton on Aug. 17.

As I suggested in the Monday print column, I don't see it. The reasons that the market for his services last winter was miminal haven't gone away: He's still old, still slow, still can't help a team on defense, still struggles against left-handers (his memorable walk-off homer against Matt Thornton of the White Sox not withstanding).

He had a big year, yes -- but how likely is a 40-year-old with a bad back to repeat a 1.039 OPS?

Most important, few teams are going to pay $4 million for a half-time player. And between the need to protect his chronic back and the need to hide him against southpaws, he's a half-time player.

He knows it. The Twins know it. Even though the baseball media these days routinely says he became the regular DH after Justin Morneau's injury, the reality is that he never started more than four days in a row and that when he did put a few starts together, he quickly sat for about the same number of games.

The Twins may not be the only team interested in him on a part-time basis. But given his apparent preference for a midwest team, the implausibility of a fit with a National League team, and the equal implausibility of a fit with a noncontender, the most likely competitor for his services would appear to be, again, the White Sox, who turned him down last offseason because they wanted more flexibility on their roster.

The Sox may have a different view of things this winter, but they have budget issues of their own. Again, it's difficult to see them doing $4 million for a part-time bat.

The Twins would be wise not to go overboard in their bidding to retain him.

1 comment:

  1. Even if Thome was a full-time DH, the demand wouldn't be all that high because so few teams even want a DH-only player. Look around the league and there are very few out there. Big Papi in Boston, but he's a sentimental fan favorite, so he has the job as long as he can perform, but I don't see the Red Sox going that route after he's done with it. After that, you have Travis Hafner in Cleveland when he's healthy and then that's about it. Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui probably should be but they have spent time on the field. With bullpens continuing to expand, benches are continually shrinking, so versatility is in higher demand and teams can't afford for their DH to not be a backup to a field position, like Kubel is for the Twins, who went for much of the first half of the season without an actual outfielder on the bench. And when Thome wasn't DHing, anytime they would pinch hit with him, they had to have someone pinch run and play the field after his at-bat, so bringing him into the game meant using two players on an already short bench.

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