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.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.