After flirting with the Rangers while searching for a multi-year deal, Jim Thome has returned to the Twins on a one-year contract.
According to Kelly Thesier of MLB.com he’ll get $3 million in guaranteed money, plus incentives based on playing time, which means the Twins got Thome at a bargain rate for the second straight offseason after he hit .283 with 25 homers and a 1.039 OPS in 340 plate appearances last year while earning around $2 million.
Thome started just 34 of the Twins’ first 84 games last season, but then became an everyday player following Justin Morneau’s season-ending concussion on July 7 and put up incredible numbers down the stretch. Morneau’s status remains a huge question mark, but if he’s healthy the Twins will again have five hitters for four lineup spots and manager Ron Gardenhire will have to stick Thome, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, or Jason Kubel on the bench each game.
That’s a nice problem to have, of course, and Gardenhire could make things easy on himself by sitting Thome or Kubel versus lefties and Cuddyer versus righties, but Cuddyer has never been a part-time player before. However the playing time shakes out, the Twins are bringing back one of the elite hitters in baseball for just $3 million in upfront money and it’s impossible to spin that as anything but a great move.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.