A couple long months into the off-season, the Twins have finally come to terms with Jim Thome, as he'll return to Minneapolis on a one-year contract worth $3 million. Throughout the off-season various teams had reportedly been interested in Thome (most recently the Rangers) but in the end he decided to spend another year with Minnesota, where, by all accounts, he had a very enjoyable 2010 season.
The price of $3 million, plus some plate appearance bonuses, is a very good one for Minnesota. After signing a make-good deal with the Twins last year for just $1.5 million, Thome made good and hit .283/.412/.627 for a .437 wOBA. Those gaudy numbers meant he produced 3.6 WAR and was worth $14.6 million (enough to rank in the top 25 among position players in the AL) despite not playing a single inning in the field and accumulating only 340 plate appearances. Unfortunately, his prolific performance in the batter's box also had rumors circulating that he was looking for either a two-year deal or $8 million for 2011.
The same facts that made his production all the more impressive, however, were the same ones that kept him from actually getting those deals. While his .437 wOBA placed him fourth in the majors among batters with more than 50 plate appearances (behind the two MVPs and Justin Morneau), he is a 40-year old who hasn't played in the field at all since 2007 (and only 8 innings that year) and can't even be counted on to play DH every day because of his problematic back.
And no one can reasonably expect him to repeat his 2010 season. Even for Thome, a future hall-of-famer who ranks 8th all-time in home runs, 2010 was one of his two or three best seasons, based purely on rate hitting stats. Bill James, for instance, projects him for a much less inspiring line of .245/.384/.498 in 2011. In all likelihood, that will be much closer to his performance than what he did last year. That is why it was important to not overpay for Thome, and instead ink him to a very reasonable one-year, $3 million contract.
And it certainly will be fun to watch him chase down 600 home runs, as he stands only 11 short at the moment.
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