Jim Thome and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a $3
million, one-year contract, doubling his salary after he provided a big lift
last season for the AL Central champions.
"It's great to be back," the 40-year-old slugger
said Friday on a conference call with reporters. "Minnesota's a wonderful
The designated hitter was one of the best bargains in
baseball last season, hitting 25 home runs in only 276 at-bats while making
$1.5 million on a one-year contract. This new deal includes performance bonuses
for plate appearances.
Thome ranks eighth in history with 589 homers. He doesn't
play in the field anymore, but he gave the Twins a huge boost, particularly
after first baseman Justin Morneau's concussion created an everyday spot in the
Thome hit .283 with 16 doubles, two triples, 59 RBIs and 60
walks in 2010.
The five-time All-Star often talked about how much he
enjoyed playing for the Twins. The Texas Rangers wanted him, too, giving Thome
two playoff teams to consider in his desire to win a World Series.
In the end, his positive experience last season and the
proximity to his family's home in Illinois made Minnesota his pick. Might this
be his sunset season, assuming he passes the 600-homer mark?
"I don't want to go into this season thinking this is
my last year, because I think that's unfair," Thome said. "My plan is
to possibly play two more years."
With manager Ron Gardenhire carefully rationing his playing
time, particularly early in the season when Morneau was playing every day,
Michael Cuddyer was in right field and Jason Kubel was the primary DH, Thome
said he finished the season feeling strong and healthy. His back gave him a few
problems, but nothing near the setbacks he's endured in the past.
"I still felt like, 'Man, I can still do this,'"
Thome said, adding: "I wasn't hurting. My body wasn't beat up."
Now that his contract is in place, Thome's next goal is to
get teammate Carl Pavano to come back with him. The right-handed veteran was
the leader, stabilizer and workhorse for a rotation that really needed one.
Pavano is a free agent, and he's been taking his time mulling his offers.
Thome said he planned to start sending him text messages to
recruit him to return.
"If he does come back, he'll be a great addition,"
Twins general manager Bill Smith said the team is continuing
negotiations with Pavano and his agent.
"We've had a lot of good talks. I think Carl's probably
at a point where he wants to step back and review his options, and we're hoping
he'll make a decision within a week," Smith said, adding: "I think
it's in everybody's best interest to get these resolved."
As for Morneau, he's continuing workouts and been given
medical clearance to push through any concussion-related symptoms.
"We're very hopeful, very optimistic, that he'll be
ready to go for spring training," Smith said.