It was on this date last year that the Rangers reached agreement on a one-year deal with Vladimir Guerrero, tabbing the former Angel as their designated hitter at a reasonable price following the worst season of his outstanding career.
Guerrero turned out to be a great value for the Rangers. He rebounded as a 35-year-old, posting an .841 OPS with 29 home runs and 115 RBI while helping lead Texas to a division title and World Series berth.
The storyline wasn't all that different for the Twins and Jim Thome, whose value was also down last offseason after a sub par year in '09. Thome signed a one-year contract for $1.5 million guaranteed and made Guerrero's team-friendly deal look like a rip-off, posting a 1.039 OPS while racking up 25 homers and 59 RBI in 108 games with the Twins.
That production, coupled with Thome's resounding popularity, leaves no one wondering why Minnesota's front office has expressed desire in retaining the Hall of Fame slugger. Yet, here we are in mid-January and there have been no indications of serious talks between the Twins and Thome's agent. Yesterday, reports surfaced from ESPN.com's Buster Olney that the Rangers are "actively trying to lure Thome to Texas."
The Rangers are a logical fit for Thome; they will be using right-handed Michael Young as their primary DH with Adrian Beltre signed on to play third. At age 40, Thome shouldn't be looked at as anything other than a bench bat and part-time DH, and as a plodding left-hander who doesn't swing particularly well against southpaws, he doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a club that already employs Jason Kubel.
The Rangers' former DH, Guerrero, might make for a better fit for the Twins. While he's no spring chicken, Guerrero is five years younger than Thome, and although he's not a good option in the field, he can more realistically be counted on for everyday duty. That's important, considering the uncertainty surrounding Justin Morneau.
However, just because Guerrero makes sense for the Twins doesn't mean the Twins make sense for Guerrero. He's reportedly seeking a two-year deal, and in the GM Handbook we guessed that he might get $16 million in such a contract. It's quite possible he'll have to settle for less than that, but with the Angels, Orioles and Rays all reportedly showing interest, he's not likely to come especially cheap.
Having Guerrero around as a part-time DH and powerful right-handed bat off the bench is a nice thought, but my guess is that the Twins don't have the money or guaranteed playing time to entice Vlad.
If Thome does indeed sign with the Rangers or another club, and that seems likely unless he's willing to take a big discount to stay in Minnesota, the Twins will be left with no insurance option at DH in the event that Morneau, Cuddyer or Kubel run into trouble. That's something that will need to be addressed one way or another.