When Jim Thome signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Minnesota last winter, it was greeted with a collective shrug. Thome had batted .249 in 2009, was traded by the White Sox late in the season for a minor leaguer in a clear salary dump, and was approaching his 40th birthday. A wire story on the signing noted that "he'll be more of a bench player than the middle-of-the-lineup-force he's been for 19 seasons."
Well, Thome exceeded everyone's expectations in 2010, likely including those of the Twins. He had a .283/.412/.627 line at the plate, with his OPS of 1.039 the highest since 2002 and his OPS+ of 178 the second-best of his career. He had 59 RBI and hit 25 homers, bringing his total to 589, eighth all-time. He was productive, healthy, and actually got better as the season wore on.
Thome's not going to sneak up on anybody next year, and he's not going to be available for $1.5 million, either. He's going to be back to make a run at 600 homers, but where?
2010: .283/.412/.627, 59 RBI, 25 HR in 340 PA.
Career: .278/.404/.559, 1,624 RBI, 589 HR (eighth all-time).
WHAT IT WILL TAKE
WHERE HE COULD GO
The reason Thome played so much in 2010 is because Jason Kubel, who was supposed to be the regular DH, was called upon to play in right field after right fielder Michael Cuddyer had to take over at first due to Justin Morneau's season-ending concussion. The Twins have picked up Kubel's option for 2011, and Thome's return would give them two left-handed designated hitters. Thome, who kills right-handed pitching, could end up in a platoon situation, but not with another left-handed hitter.
So who else could use him? The Red Sox picked up the option on David Ortiz, so there went one good option. The Tigers seemed like a decent fit, but now say newly signed Victor Martinez will DH most of the time. The White Sox have been trying to upgrade at DH, and the Angels and Rays also could use a better option there. There are some losing teams in the market for a DH (Mariners, Orioles), but it seems likely Thome will prefer a contender.
The Twins are able to promise Thome enough playing time to entice him back for one more run at a title.
J. Bartlett | H. Bell | A. Beltre | C. Crawford | A. Dunn | P. Fielder | P. Konerko | C. Lee | V. Martinez (SIGNED) | D. Uggla (TRADED) | R. Soriano | J. Upton | J. Werth
-- David AndriesenFor more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.