Just a couple days after the Cubs signed Jacque Jones, the Twins made a move today to replace his production in the lineup by signing former Tiger Rondell White. While it seems at this point that he has been signed to play designated hitter, it seems he may see some action in the outfield. He played 65 games last year in left field, and while he has also seen action in center field in his career, he has never started a game in right, Jones' vacant position.
White appears to be a pretty good fit for this team. While he doesn't carry the potential slugging upside of Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas, he doesn't carry as much downside either. White has had 500+ at-bats in a season only twice in his 13-year career, and he struggled with a shoulder injury last year. However, his contract for next season is completely dependent on how much he plays. He is guaranteed $2.5 million, but can make more by getting a full season's worth of at-bats. This is the type of contract the Twins needed for one of these injury-prone candidates, and probably one that Piazza and Thomas were un-willing to sign.
While White is a steady player, he's not really great in any category. With a full season's worth of at-bats, he'll probably hit about 25 home runs with 80 RBI, and that's being optimistic. On the surface, that's not much of an upgrade over Jones. Also, like Jones, he doesn't draw very many walks (17 last year in 374 ABs). However, unlike Jones, he didn't hit .249 last year. In fact, he has hit below .270 only once in his career since his rookie season. He also isn't going to post a nasty little .319 or .315 on-base percentage like Jones has put up the last two years.
Essentially, White looks a guy who, if healthy, will have about the same power numbers as Jones did while getting on base more often and striking out less. All that for for a couple million dollars less. It seems like Terry Ryan has done well here. White doesn't have the potential to hit 40 homers like Piazza or Thomas, but he's also less risky. He's cheaper, has less of an ego, and should fit well with this Minnesota club. If they Ron Gardenhire chooses to slot the right-handed White between lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau next season, this is what the opening day lineup could potentially look like:
And you have a pretty decent bench with Nick Punto, Juan Castro, Michael Cuddyer, Lew Ford, and Mike Redmond available. To me, this offense stands to be significantly improved over last year, especially if Stewart and Morneau bounce back from underwhelming efforts and Mauer and Bartlett continue to develop.