Jamey Carroll Signs With Minnesota

And not with the Tigers. Jamey Carroll had seemed the best bundle of ‘second baseman’ and ‘gets on base’ available on the market, so now Tigers fans and armchair GMs will have to look elsewhere to fill both of those needs.

I say ‘fans’ and not ‘the Tigers’, because it seems that all the buzz connecting Carroll to the Tigers was coming from outside the organization – be it the ‘official’ sports media, the blogosphere or Carroll’s own agent. The terms of the deal, if they are accurate, do not seem to represent an overly generous commitment to the 37-year-old. Even if he were to break down, $7 million over two years wouldn’t break the bank and seems if anything to be a bit miserly for a 2 win player. Inge and Peralta projected as 2 win guys last offseason, and each was able to get nearly double what Carroll will. Likely Dombrowski simply considered Carroll to be too old for a position that requires agility.

This will, of course, impact the Tigers in a couple of different ways in addition to the simple fact that Carroll is no longer an option (if he was ever considered to be one). The first is that Ramon Santiago has lost what had appeared to be his number one suitor – as a potential starter. The likelihood that Santiago might wind up crawling back to Detroit for the promise of a shot to earn a full strong-side platoon role in spring training but no real guarantee of more playing time than he got in 2011.

The second impact would be on the AL Central race and Minnesota’s chances of re-emergence. As I and others have written here, Minnesota will have no shot in 2012 or beyond if their stars continue to play like scrubs. However, the reason that the team was a cellar dweller last year wasn’t just poor performances by Liriano, Mauer and Morneau it was that nearly every member of the supporting cast (including the replacements in the gutted bullpen and gutted infield) underachieved as well. Even if Mauer and Morneau start hitting again, and Liriano stays healthy and throws strikes, the team will be lucky to better .500 unless they get some combination of rebounds and replacements from elsewhere. Carroll is a step in the right direction for them. Tsuyoshi Nishioka might be better than he looked last year – but then again he might not be – and the team had to be ready with another option better than the -1.5 WAR it got from backup Trevor Plouffe. Even if Nishioka hits in 2012 Carroll looks to be loads better than Alexi Casilla, whose career WAR total is 0.2 – in SIX seasons.

This isn’t a huge splash, but it is an incremental improvement for Minnesota at relatively low cost. I think we’re likely to see a lot more moves of a similar nature from Minnesota this offseason as they attempt to restructure their whole roster – at minimum cost – to give themselves a shot at the crown IF their big guys can pull their weight. Fan enthusiasm and attendance have remained high despite the 99 losses and even if the Twins were to go into a rebuilding mode they simply could not get rid of the contracts owed to Mauer and Morneau, so they have no choice but to reload and hope – which is clearly what the fans will demand anyway. From the strong 2010 team, Jim Thome, Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson and Nick Punto are gone already and the churn will continue. Expect Minnesota to lose their remaining corner outfield and DH candidates and look for replacements outside the organization in addition to desperately needed relief help. The Twins offseason, like those elsewhere in the Central, will bear watching.

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