Jim Thome, who has spent almost his entire career playing in the AL Central, is ready to come home after a year away:
Thome update: Gardy wants. Told there’s mutual interest, although not all MN officials on board. Big issue: Thome wants MLB deal. We’ll see.
— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) March 1, 2013
It just so happens that the Minnesota Twins, who are looking for a lefty bat off the bench, could be interested to bring their former DH back. The team already has a switch-hitting DH in Ryan Doumit, and even if Thome were to be signed by the team, it’s unlikely that he’ll have much of a regular role for the team.
Instead, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is looking for a little more oomph off the bench.
According to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minnapolis Star Tribune, the skipper said that the team “want a little more something off the bench instead of two utility guys and a backup catcher.” That the team and Thome have had past history helps things as well.
Thome, a 22-year veteran who will heading into his age-42 season in 2013 (should he successfully find a job), has been surprisingly productive despite his being in the twilight of his career. He was an above-replacement (0.3 fWAR) player as a pinch hitter coming off the bench with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012, posting a very useful .854 OPS despite a back injury, before being traded to the Baltimore Orioles for their unlikely run to the playoffs.
In his one and a half seasons as the Twins DH, Thome put up very productive numbers, posting a .266/.387/.562 triple slash, along with 37 homers over 582 PA between 2010 to 2011. In fact, the lefty slugger was the team’s fourth-most valuable player on the field in his time in Minnesota, behind only Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span.
Whether he’d have similar results in a return to Minnesota is doubtful, but there is one distinct advantage over the team’s current DH – his ability to draw walks. Even at a declining rate, Thome’s 11.8 percent walk rate is still more than twice that of Ryan Doumit’s 5.5 percent last season; and, as Gardenhire says, his will be a better option as a bat off the bench than guys like Brian Dozier and Drew Butera.
Is it enough to get Thome the guaranteed MLB deal he wants? It was a deal-breaker for the Cleveland Indians this off-season, but perhaps their divisional rivals will see things differently.