November 28, 2005
Thome to Chicago
There was some pretty big AL Central news since last we spoke, as the White Sox traded Aaron Rowand and a couple pitching prospects to the Phillies for Jim Thome. The move has been met with wildly varying opinions from Twins fans, some of whom aren't particularly worried about Chicago adding a guy who slugged .352 last year and some of whom dread having Thome in the division again.
While Thome is certainly not a sure thing at this point, count me among those in the dread category. If Paul Konerko leaves Chicago via free agency, Thome can step right into the vacant cleanup spot in the White Sox's lineup. And if Konerko sticks around (it's rumored that he likes the idea of playing with Thome), Chicago suddenly has one of the best righty/lefty power combos in all of baseball.
It is interesting that Chicago GM Kenny Williams would trade Rowand, a key member of a team that just won the World Series, for a 35-year-old coming off a season in which he played just 59 games. The White Sox do have a center fielder playing left field in Scott Podsednik and a center-field prospect waiting in the wings in Brian Anderson, but Rowand's outstanding defense is going to be extremely difficult to replace.
Of course, if Thome stays healthy and returns to his dominant ways (he hit .274/.396/.581 with 42 homers in 2004, his fourth straight 40-homer season), the White Sox can afford to lose a little defense. If the Phillies paying a big chunk of Thome's salary allows Chicago to also bring back Konerko, the White Sox have managed the difficult feat of improving the team a month after winning the World Series.
That should be a scary thought for Twins fans, especially with the Indians already set up for a nice run while also rumored to be making some noise in the free-agent market and the Twins, so far at least, completely silent. The young offseason has already featured a ton of fireworks, with Thome, Carlos Delgado, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and B.J. Ryan all changing teams, but as always the Twins appear to be waiting around for the scraps to fall from the table.
In fact, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website has a page devoted solely to Twins-related news, and the headline story is still a November 16 article that proclaims, "Twins show interest in Piazza." I don't want to say something cliched like "the Twins are standing by while Rome burns," because I don't think they need to make wholesale changes to compete in 2006. However, it would be nice if Terry Ryan did something to give a little insight into how he plans to improve the worst offense in the league.
In the meantime, a couple Twins notes ...
I'm not sure why the Twins would be going after Bronson Arroyo given their pitching depth, but if the Red Sox ever offer up Arroyo and Kevin Youkilis for Hunter, I would jump at it. Not only could Youkilis slide right in at third base and Arroyo make cutting Kyle Lohse loose even easier, the deal would free up about $8 million a year that the Twins could use to sign or trade for an impact bat.
The Sox will intensify their negotiations with Johnny Damon this week, making re-signing him a top priority. Dragging talks out close to Christmas -- as agent Scott Boras did with Jason Varitek last year -- likely won't happen in this case. The Sox may go as high as a four-year, $40 million offer, but don't be surprised if the Sox eventually kick some tires on Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter. After all, they do have some chips in [Kevin] Youkilis, in whom the Twins had some interest last season, and [Bronson] Arroyo, a bargain end-of-the-rotation starter.
Pick of the Day (144-122, +$2,165):
Pittsburgh +8 (-110) over Indianapolis