The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that the Minnesota Twins have agreed to terms with Jim Thome on a one-year, incentive laden contract.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the deal is for a $1.5 million base salary with $700,000 in incentives available to him.
Let’s start with this: Who is Thome?
- A 39-year-old designated hitter / pinch hitter.
- A sure-fire Hall of Famer after he retires – barring a steroid admission, which you just never know these days – with 564 homers and a career .557 slugging percentage.
- That slugging percentage is 23rd best in big league history. To put that in perspective, players 20 through 22 on the list are Stan Musial, Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle.
- The 564 homers are 12th-most in big league history, and he could very easily pass Rafael Palmeiro and Harmon Killebrew to land in the top 10 if he gets decent at-bats. Big "if" though.
- Last year in 124 games, he had a .249/.366/.481 (BA/OBP/SLG) line with 23 homers and 77 RBIs.
So, Thome was still a pretty productive player, even at his advanced age. That on-base percentage of .366 is higher than every player on the Twins except Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span. Yes, it was just a tad higher than Justin Morneau.
The .481 slugging percentage is higher than everyone on the Twins except Mauer, Morneau, Kubel and Michael Cuddyer.
Yes, the batting average isn’t great, but clearly he has a great eye at the plate and remains a feared hitter. And with the Twins, there will be plenty of pop around him.
The biggest question is: How much will Thome play? My guess is he’ll play two to three days a week. Injuries happen, and any injury to Delmon Young, Kubel or Cuddyer would free up playing time for Thome. He’ll probably take some at-bats from Young, which would not be a bad thing at all. And if Young gets off to his typical slow start through the first four months of the year, he’ll likely steal a lot of at-bats from him.
How much should Thome play? In my opinion, almost every day. I’d stick Young on the bench, giving him at-bats against left-handed pitching. I’d start Thome and Kubel every time a righty is on the mound for the opponent. Now that the Metrodome is in the rear-view mirror, the Twins don’t need to worry so much about Kubel’s balky knees running around on that concrete-like Dome turf.
But no matter how you slice it, the Twins have added much-needed depth without spending very much money at all. They just signed a future Hall of Famer who – despite being past his prime – is still a very productive player when healthy, and the cost will be roughly a third of what Nick Punto makes next year. Think about that!
And while you’re thinking about that, how about this: Thome will make less than half of what the Twins paid Mike Lamb in 2009, and they cut Lamb in 2008!
We’ll talk about Thome and other Twins topics on "Sports Talk" on 970-AM WDAY from 1-2 p.m. Wednesday. I have a guest scheduled for the show that I’m pretty excited about, and the timing couldn’t be better. Make sure to tune in for the show, or check back here tomorrow when I reveal who that guest is.