Twins Sign Jamey Carroll

I know I’m a few days behind on this, but I suppose I’m not actually late if the deal isn’t even official yet. On Friday, it was announced that the Twins had reached a 2-year, $7 million contract with 38-year old Jamey Carroll, instantly naming him as the starting shortstop. This is rather interesting as Carroll hadn’t been playing shortstop with any semblance of regularity until two years ago. Until then, he had mostly been used at 2B and had made a bunch of appearances at 3B.

There are two certain things about Carroll’s offense, and those are that he won’t hit for any power, but he’ll draw plenty of walks. A career .278/.356/.348 hitter, he would be perfect for the 2-spot in the batting order, and fortunately he meets Ron Gardenhire’s requirement on having a middle infielder bat second. The fact that he’s generally rated as an above-average fielder according to UZR makes this signing even better.

I’ve seen some concerns about Carroll playing shortstop at the young age of 38, but I’m not worried at all. As of right now, the Twins are likely going to have Alexi Casilla return as the starting 2nd baseman. If Carroll struggles at shortstop, the Twins already have their backup shortstop in Casilla, so any defensive issues could be solved by simply flip-flopping the two middle infielders.

Even if Carroll has some problems in 2012, fans shouldn’t fret. Remember that we witnessed a pair of terrible shortstops in Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe. Carroll could be merely average and still be better than what the Twins had in 2011. Plus, he doesn’t need to do a whole lot to justify being paid an average of $3.5 million per season. Simply put, Jamey Carroll is not Joe Mauer, and he doesn’t have to live up to a huge contract.

Considering the shortstop market dropped off considerably after Jose Reyes (whom the Twins were never realistically going to sign anyway) and Jimmy Rollins, I feel like the Twins did a good job here. I was worrying that the Twins would go for a defense-first player, and they actually found someone that could contribute a bit with the stick – er, could contribute without using the stick? – as well. I suppose it’s safe to assume that Carroll’s offense will drop off a bit with the move into Target Field, but that could be attributed more to age than the new ballpark. After all, remember that he’s coming from Dodger Stadium, a field that isn’t exactly hitter-friendly either.

Even with this signing, I wouldn’t be complacent with calling the middle infield solved. Even with Luke Hughes figuring into the equation next season, Trevor Plouffe is likely going to be converted into an OF/DH, so I would go looking for a veteran backup that could be placed on the bench. Perhaps a call to Nick Punto should be in the works, but I wouldn’t mind if the Twins took a look at Ramon Santiago. A big issue I’ve had with past Twins teams is their lack of depth at virtually all positions, so making another cheap signing could go a long way into solving another problem for this squad.

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