Many people in Minnesota have been assuming that Jim Thome re-signing with the Twins was only a matter of time, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Thome wants to “make up for what he didn’t earn last season.”
It’s tough to blame Thome, because he was certainly worth far more than the $2 million or so the Twins paid him in 2010. On the other hand there aren’t many openings for pure designated hitters and he hasn’t really been linked publicly to other teams.
Bringing back Thome would be great for the Twins if the price is reasonable, but it’s also worth remembering that he wasn’t a regular until Justin Morneau’s concussion in early July, starting just 34 of the first 84 games. Thome and a healthy Morneau along with Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young would give the Twins five players for four lineup spots, and it’s hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire benching Cuddyer versus right-handed pitchers no matter how much sense it would make.
Carl Pavano and his agent smartly let Cliff Lee sign before making their move, setting him up as the top free agent starter on the market. However, that took place two weeks ago and Pavano still hasn’t made a decision despite interest from multiple teams.
Minnesota and Washington (and previously Milwaukee) have been linked to Pavano, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe adds Texas and Seattle to the list. Presumably any team seriously interested in Pavano has offered him a two-year deal, but according to Cafardo he’s holding out for a three-year contract.
Pavano hasn’t missed a start in two seasons and went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA and fantastic 117/37 K/BB ratio in 221 innings for the Twins this year, but at age 35 and with his extensive injury history a three-year commitment would be an extremely risky move by a team truly desperate for rotation help. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone caves.
Minnesota won the exclusive negotiating rights to Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a $5.3 million bid and eventually signed the Japanese infielder to a three-year, $9.25 million contract, and this afternoon general manager Bill Smith revealed that the Twins also finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.
In an interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN radio, Smith explained that the Twins bid $7.7 million for the negotiating rights to Iwakuma. Oakland blew that number out of the water with their winning $19.1 million bid, but then the A’s were unable to work out a contract with Iwakuma and he returned to Japan angry.
Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price it seems likely that the Twins also would have balked at his demands, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it’s possible he would have asked for significantly less money and/or the Twins would have had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable contract.
Whatever the case, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Iwakuma is up for bid again next offseason.