Jim Thome Signs with the Twins and I'm Eating My Words

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IJanuary 26, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Jim Thome #25 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a single in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Two of the NLCS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 16, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Mmmm...Shoe .

OK, so Jim Thome didn't sign for $400K, but the contract he did agree to (1 year, $1.5 million in base salary with $750,000 in incentives based on plate appearances) is pretty close, much closer than I thought he'd receive.

It's hard to get worked up over well-spent money, even if Thome is redundant. Ultimately, he makes the Twins bench so much better and at $1.5 million, if that's all he does, it's still a great value.

The more I think about this deal, the more I like it. As noted, Thome slaughters right-handers, and the AL Central is chock full of them.

Every opposing closer in the division-Jose Valverde (DET), Joakim Soria (KC), Bobby Jenks (CHW), Kerry Wood (CLE)-is a right-hander. If the Twins need a run in the ninth, they can essentially turn any unfavorable matchup into more or less the best possible one they could imagine.

There are a lot of good right-handed starters as well: Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd from the Sox, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello from the Tigers, Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar from the Royals, Justin Masterson and Fausto Carmona from the Indians. Thome is a solid option against any of them, but the ability to spot him in makes him all the more valuable.

The word from Bill Smith (via Joe C's twitter ) is for "Young (LF), Span (CF), Cuddyer (RF) and Kubel (DH)...Jim Thome’s a bat off the bench," which is exactly what I wanted to hear. He'll also be, just by virtue of being on the team, great injury insurance should an outfield get injured.

If that's the case, I'll love this deal all the more. Having a Hall of Fame hitter on your bench, ready to combat the opposition's best pitcher is a huge asset, even more so for the Twins who routinely called on Jose Morales and Brian Buscher to pinch hit. It's safe to say that Thome, even at age 40, will be an improvement over those two.

But Bill Smith isn't the only one calling the shots in the Twins organization, and that's where this deal might break down.

Manager Ron Gardenhire told Kelly Thesier that "A guy like Jim, he’s not going to just come off the bench. He’s going to get his time playing and mix in at DH." While he did also tell her that "Kubel is his DH and Delmon is the LF. But...Thome will get plenty of at-bats," I remain a little skeptical.

I'm sure that this will be the state of affairs going into this season, but consider the people involved.

Delmon Young: streaky, can seem disinterested, has aggravated coaches to their limit in the past.

Jim Thome: the nicest guy in baseball, a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter, a bigtime team player.

See the problem? If Delmon hits the skids, as he is wont to do, Kubel moves to left and Thome comes in to DH. If Gardy and Young are on the outs, Delmon could find himself riding pine for a long, long time.

Maybe that's not a bad thing, maybe that'll light a fire under Young and help him to make the Great Leap Forward a few of us think he will. My guess is that Young, a very emotional player, will press and revert to some of the poor habits that got him into this position in the first place.

At this moment, I'm a huge fan of this deal. The Twins added a huge hitter to their bench for pennies compared to the value he could potentially add. There's a lot to like here, but if the Twins (specifically Ron Gardenhire) aren't intelligent with how they use him, they could end up hurting themselves in the long run by stunting Delmon Young's growth.