No, Jim Thome isn't the answer at second base or third base -- and, in fact, he isn't likely to see the field at all with the Twins.
But when you can add a scary good Hall of Fame bat that gives Gardy a Plan B lineup or game-changing option on the bench, it's a deal too good to be passed up. Having Thome sitting on the bench will change the way an opposing manager views his bullpen when it comes to facing Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. Bring in your lefty to face pinch-hitting Thome in the seventh and you don't have him available in the ninth when the big guys come to bat.
Give Delmon Young a day (or week) off in the outfield and you can have a lineup that goes: Span, cf; Mauer, c; Morneau, 1b; Thome, dh; Cuddyer, rf; Kubel, lf; Hardy, ss; Harris, 3b; Punto, 2b.
I'll start that one against Zack Greinke or Justin Verlander five times a year.
You knew that Thome had a higher on-base percentage against right-handers last season than Morneau, right? So even if the 39-year-old Thome slips a bit in 2010, he has a long way to slide before he becomes Ruben Sierra or Bret BOOne.
On XM's baseball channel, in the hours after the trade, one of the chatterers was saying that he thought Thome was a wretched fit for the Twins because of the players they already have. I guess sending Matt Tolbert or Jason Pridie up to pinch hit late in the game seems acceptable to someone who doesn't have to watch it happen in real time. Jim Bowden, the former Cincinnati and Washington general manager, smoked that argument by pointing out that Thome provides depth in case anything happens to Cuddyer, Morneau, Young or even (for a short period of time) Span.
Injuries happen. Slumps happen.
I can see Thome getting 300 at-bats even if everyone stays healthy and someone (Delmon) doesn't play himself into a reserve role. If injuries happen -- see Morneau and Span, 2009; Cuddyer, 2008 -- Thome could get a regular's haul of plate appearances.
Last year, even though Gardy basically had four outfielders for three spots, he was hard pressed for much of the season to have three highly functioning ones because Carlos Gomez regressed and Delmon didn't get it together until near season's end. The DH options weren't the greatest when Kubel played in the field.
In 2010, Gardy won't be shy about going Kubel-Span-Cuddyer if Delmon struggles.
If anyone wants to wager, I'll bet Thome gets more starts against right-handers in 2010 than Delmon. You can book the bet with me from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday during TwinsFest, when I'll be at the Star Tribune booth, talking baseball and (I'm told) giving away root beer-flavored lip balm.
I like root beer and I'm OK with lip balm. But I think getting Thome is a better deal.