By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS – It appears that Jim Thome is going to be back for his 21st season in the Majors.
Thome’s agent Pat Rooney told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Thursday night that the 40-year-old slugger has “no intention of retiring” and that the Twins, in addition to some other teams, are in the mix for Thome’s services.
“We have been in contact with his agent and I’ve told him we are interested,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said on Friday morning.
After the Twins’ 2010 season ended with a loss in Game 3 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, Thome told reporters that he was leaning toward returning for another year but he would go home, talk to his family and see how he felt before making a decision. And now it appears he’s ready to play at least one more season, perhaps more.
Smith has made it clear all offseason that the Twins would love to have
Thome back in Minnesota for the 2011 season. The expectation is that
the Twins and Rooney will likely talk again next week at the Winter
Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Thome is coming off a very productive season with the Twins after signing a one-year, $1.5 million, incentive-laden contract last January. The veteran slugger batted .283 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs in 108 games for Minnesota. He also had a 1.039 OPS — his highest OPS since the 2002 season when he was with Cleveland (1.122).
The Twins loved the leadership that Thome provided in the clubhouse and the impact that he delivered on the field, particularly after Justin Morneau went down with a season-ending concussion on July 7. Thome has also expressed how much he enjoyed his time in Minnesota.
Currently, Thome sits eighth on the all-time home run list with 589 home runs and the Twins would love to see him pursue the 600 home run mark while wearing a Twins uniform. But with other teams in the mix and Thome coming off such a strong season, it remains to be seen if he’ll be playing in Minnesota next season.
So would the Twins pursue another big bat if Thome does end up signing elsewhere?
Smith has said that the club’s two primary goals this winter are addressing the middle infield and the bullpen. Last winter, the Twins were vocal about their desire to improve the depth on their bench and they did so by signing Thome. Now it’s a little more unclear if they’d search for another big bat if Thome doesn’t return.
“As we go though the winter, we’ll be looking to put the best team on the field possible,” Smith said. “We’ve got to solidify our middle infield and our bullpen because that is where we have the most players coming off the roster. So we have to fill those holes first and other than that, the rest is hypothetical. We’ll see what happens with Jim Thome and move forward.”