Posts two days in a row? I must be feeling energetic. Obviously, I couldn’t let it pass that the Twins took action today to sign Jim Thome, one day after I suggested that doing so would be a mistake. To summarize yesterday’s post, it’s not that I don’t like Thome — I do. And certainly, having his bat available on the bench looks far better than just having an additional middle infielder type (Tolbert or Casilla, for instance). My problem is that I don’t think Thome will be all that effective as a pinch hitter. It would be sort of absurd for me to take back that opinion just 24 hours later simply because the Twins actually pulled the trigger and signed Thome, so I’ll stand by what I said and reiterate that I’m concerned Thome will be a bit of a dud in the role he’s being asked to play.
Why I might be (and hopefully am) wrong:
1.) I’m largely basing my opinion on two poor years as a pinch hitter covering a total of 36 plate appearances. That’s a tiny (and likely meaningless) sample size. Nonetheless, drawing off the fact that Thome hasn’t been that effective as a pinch hitter for the past couple of years and is getting older, I’m comfortable saying the power numbers and average just won’t be anywhere near what fans (and the Twins) are hoping for. Still, the sample size issue is significant — Thome just hasn’t had enough AB’s as a PH the last couple of years to draw solid conclusions, so this is potentially a very weak spot in my argument.
2.) I didn’t consider price as a factor in my analysis. Signing Thome for $1.5 million and $750,000 in incentives is a great deal for a clubhouse leader who, if effective, will greatly bolster the Twins bench and make the team more dangerous in late innings. At that price, even a fair performance from Thome would look good. In other words, had I considered the cost of bringing Thome in I might have been more generous in my earlier article, and the price is a big reason why it’s arguably not such a bad idea to bring Thome in.
3.) The possibility of injury hangs over all Major League teams constantly. If something happens (again) to Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, or Michael Cuddyer, Thome could find himself getting a lot more plate appearances than expected. I continue to argue that you can’t just a decision (such as whether to sign a free agent) after the fact based on circumstances that could not have been foreseen at the time — but the fact is, the possibility of injury certainly could be foreseen. The Thome signing looks better if you consider it as not just a decision to sign a veteran power-hitting pinch hitter, but also as a means of fortifying the emergency options in case someone gets hurt. Again, I didn’t consider this angle in yesterday’s article, and it’s another reason why my initial assessment may have been unduly hasty.
Regardless of what happens, I truly believe in my post title — I would love to see Thome come to the plate once a game, hit 10 homeruns, and generally give opposing managers ulcers trying to figure out matchups. Please, Jim — make me look like a fool.