Thome agrees to 1-year deal with TwinsJim 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.
By: Joe Christensen, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
The Twins' quiet offseason picked up some volume Friday, when lefthanded-hitting slugger Jim Thome agreed to return for at least one more season, saying he hopes Carl Pavano comes back, too.
"When I get off the phone with you, I will definitely be recruiting him and sending him some text messages," Thome told reporters.
Thome's relatively modest deal -- one year for $3 million plus incentives for plate appearances -- should only make it easier for the Twins to re-sign Pavano. The Thome signing nudged their projected Opening Day payroll to about $104 million, which is about $3 million higher than where they finished last year.
Pavano likely would add about $10 million to that total for multiple years. It appears he's taking the weekend to consider the Twins' final offer, with a decision expected Monday or Tuesday.
"I think it's in everybody's best interest to get these resolved as you head into mid-January," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said. "We're very optimistic, very hopeful of bringing Carl Pavano back to this ballclub."
Thome and Pavano were two key pieces to last year's division title team. The Twins have waved goodbye to righthanded relievers Jesse Crain (now with the White Sox) and Matt Guerrier (Dodgers), as well as middle infielders J.J. Hardy (Orioles) and Orlando Hudson (Padres). Minnesota's only notable addition has been Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
One of the team's 10 free agents entering the offseason, Thome seemed the most likely to stay after hitting .283 with 25 home runs, 59 RBI and a .412 on-base percentage.
"He was a huge part of our success last year," Smith said. "We would not have won the division without him."
Thome, 40, doubled his base salary from last season, when he made $1.7 million, including $200,000 in incentives for plate appearances. The Rangers came closest to plucking him away from the Twins.
"That kind of made this a difficult decision because both teams have an opportunity to win," Thome said. "My family was very comfortable in Minnesota. It's close to where I live in the wintertime [Peoria, Ill.], and just the rapport I had with my teammates, it was a wonderful place to play."
Wearing a Twins uniform, Thome climbed past Rafael Palmeiro, Harmon Killebrew, Mark McGwire and Frank Robinson into eighth place on the all-time home run list, with 589. Now, 600 is within his sights.
"Look, I do think about ," Thome said. "But I don't want to get wrapped up solely on an individual stat. That's one thing the Twins do very well. It's not about one guy."
Thome said he won't go into 2011 viewing it as his last season.
"My plan is to possibly play two more years," he said.
He said playing at Target Field in a pennant race last year "revitalized" him. After starting only 34 of the team's first 84 games, he didn't have as much trouble with his back as in previous seasons. Thome was ready when the Twins needed him most, after Justin Morneau went down July 7 because of what proved to be a season-ending concussion.
"A couple years ago, I was a little banged up," Thome said. "Not playing every day, I kind of healed up a little bit from the little injuries that I had the year before. Then, when I got home this winter and my body wasn't beat up, I said, 'Wait a minute, this may work out.' "
Pavano, who went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA last year in a team-high 221 innings, also has said repeatedly how much he has enjoyed pitching for the Twins. Maybe a few Thome text messages will convince him to stay.