If you surveyed Minnesota Twins fans and asked them to name their favorite Twins player over the past five years, who do you think would be named most often? The likely answers are Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span or Michael Cuddyer. If you posed the same question and asked Twins fans who their favorite off-season acquisition was in the past five years, I believe you would have a less crowded list. The headliners would be Josh Willingham and none other than the Paul Bunyan lookalike himself, Jim Thome.
Thome became a larger-than-life, fan favorite for his ability to hit homeruns at key moments during the season and his infectious love of the game and professionalism that resonated throughout the clubhouse and on the field. Thome also hit his 600th homerun as a member of the Twins and energized a fan base through a disappointing campaign during the 2011 season. It was during that season that the Twins traded Thome to the Cleveland Indians with the hope that he would be able to compete for a playoff spot and hopefully experience an opportunity to win a World Series championship in the twilight of his career.
With the Twins in need of fan support and with a team in dire need of additional veteran leadership, why not bring back Thome—who is still a free agent—for one last ride with the Twins this season? Thome would give the Twins an above average hitter to use off the bench, a mentor for younger players and a legitimate starter as a designated hitter without taking away playing time that is needed for younger players to mature and develop.
He would come at a relatively cheap price and could demonstrate to teams that he still has the talent and bat speed to be an effective hitter at age 42. If the Twins remain uncompetitive and out of a playoff race while Thome has a solid season, they could then trade him to a contender and acquire a player who could help them somewhere down the line while also giving him a chance to hopefully reach and win a World Series.
It is exactly the type of low-risk, high-reward type of move that Twins general manager Terry Ryan always talks about building his team around and I personally do not see any disadvantage to bringing back a future hall of fame player and professional. If the goal of the 2013 Twins is to be competitive while not sacrificing their future or restraining themselves with bad long-term contacts, then the signing of Thome meets all of the requirements.
For a surefire hall of famer and a class act on and off the field, this signing would give a 42-year-old man the type of farewell tour that he has earned and deserves.