I apologize that I’ve been a bit slow with discussing Twins news over the past few weeks. All the stuff that allowed me to type up my last three posts has been consuming quite a bit of my time. So, I’ve decided to go back and offer my opinion on some of the recent happenings.
The Twins signed all of their arbitration-eligible players, including handing out a 2-year contract to Brendan Harris. On the surface, it seems like the Twins guaranteed that Harris will be sticking around in Minnesota for an extra year, but that is not the case. This was Harris’ first year of arbitration, so unless the Twins decided to avoid tendering him a contract or traded him, he would have been with the team in 2011 anyway. The contract gives Harris $1.45 million in 2010 and $1.75 million in 2011. This year, the pay raise doesn’t seem very advantageous for the Twins (probably being a wash), but I believe that this will actually save the Twins some money in 2011 than if they had gone to arbitration with him again.
In some minor news, the Twins signed LHP Mark McLemore to a minor league contract. McLemore missed all of 2008 from Tommy John surgery after having a 3.86 ERA with 35 K in 35 IP for the Houston Astros in 2007. Last year’s numbers in the minors weren’t very impressive, as his ERA was in the high 4s. With the bullpen almost completely set, it seems like this signing was just to create some depth at Triple-A. I think of this as being similar to signing Randy Choate and Mike Gosling to minor league contracts last year (they never pitched for the major league team).
Lastly, and certainly the biggest news, is that the Twins are interested in signing Jim Thome to come off the bench. This isn’t too surprising, considering that the Twins have been interested in Thome right before he was traded from the Phillies to the White Sox. My opinion is certainly mixed about this. On one hand, the Twins have plenty of lefthanded hitters and Thome will likely want at least a $1 million contract (reducing some flexibility for signing someone else). However, he would also strengthen the bench and even the lineup as a DH if the Twins put Jason Kubel into the outfield to give Delmon Young or Michael Cuddyer a day off. It sounds like the White Sox are also interested in signing Thome, but I believe that they’ll be able to give him more at-bats. I would approve signing him, but only if the contract is respectable and doesn’t hinder the Twins from making any other moves to improve the team before the season starts.
Edit: I completely forgot to include what follows when I originally posted this. I meant to, but ended up getting sidetracked when I was first typing everything.
One remaining thing has to do with the Twins payroll. Many of us were anticipating the opening of Target Field not only because it was a new stadium, but also because it signaled the beginning of a much higher Twins payroll. Many of us (including myself) assumed this meant that the Twins would finally become serious contenders in free agency to sign top-notch talent. Perhaps not on the level of Matt Holliday or John Lackey from this offseason, but at least players that wouldn’t get a GM accused of being cheap.
However, Twins fans have quickly found out that this is not the case. This offseason, the increase in payroll has come simply from the players that the Twins have kept. Arbitration cases alone raised the payroll by over $20 million this year. Without any more additions to the team, the Twins are already looking at spending almost $90 million this year, and the only significant additions have been reliever Clay Condrey and shortstop J.J. Hardy (you can also throw in Carl Pavano if you wish). The increase in payroll has simply come from retaining current players, not signing new ones. Deep down, it’s nice to see the Twins keep Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel when in years past, these two might be on other teams by now. It’s just a little frustrating that the Twins front office kept telling the fans that payroll would increase without explaining how it would increase. Oh well…there’s always next year….?