Twins bring aboard Carroll with two-year deal
Minnesota expects veteran utility man to start at shortstop
With their defense in tatters during the 2011 season, the Twins did not want to wait all winter to try for improvements.That's why the club moved quickly this offseason in its pursuit of veteran middle infielder Jamey Carroll, who was signed to a two-year, $6.75 million contract in a deal that was formally announced on Wednesday. The plan is to have Carroll compete for the starting shortstop job. Considering the price of his contract, he clearly has the inside track. "We had a lot of issues last year with trying to pick up the ball and make the routine play," Twins interim general manager Terry Ryan said. "I think everybody saw that. If we can solidify that position, it will help our pitching staff."
Minnesota, which lost 99 games this past season, was uncharacteristically ranked 13th out of 14 American League teams in fielding percentage while committing the second-most errors.Carroll's contract calls for him to earn $1.75 million in 2012, $2.75 million in '13 and a $2 million signing bonus. The deal includes a $2 million mutual option for '14. The club holds the option up to 400 plate appearances in 2013, with a $250,000 buyout. It's a player option for more than 401 plate appearances with no buyout if he declines. There is additional performance incentive bonuses included in the contract.
Carroll was in Minneapolis on Tuesday to take his physical, which he passed. From playing in Cleveland from 2008-09, Carroll developed an affinity for the AL Central rival Twins."When the calls came in about getting an opportunity to be a part of this team, I was very excited, because I've watched this team play," Carroll said on a Wednesday conference call with reporters. "I know about the style of baseball they play. I just felt like it was a great fit for me. This is a team that grinds it out." Carroll is a 10-year Major League veteran who has played with the Expos, Nationals, Rockies, Indians and the last two seasons with the Dodgers. In 2011, he batted .290 with a .359 on-base percentage and .347 slugging percentage in 146 games. He also stole 10 bases without getting caught. Lifetime, Carroll is a career .278/.356/.347 hitter and hasn't posted an on-base percentage lower than .346 since 2007. He's not a ranked free agent, which means the Twins do not have to lose a Draft pick for compensation to Los Angeles. "About everybody I talked to about Jamey Carroll, the descriptions were very similar -- gamer, clutch player, he'll pick the ball up, he'll make the plays," Ryan said. "All the good things we're looking for -- leadership, dependability. Every indication is he's a Twins type of player. I think everybody will be pleased with this addition." Carroll, who can also play second base, third base and both corner outfield positions, is known for providing steady defense. However, he has never been a regular shortstop. He played a career-high 69 games there for Los Angeles in 2010 and 66 games in '11 while playing more often at second base. Versatility was not on Ryan's mind, however, when it came to Carroll. "The thought process here is we need to fill up that middle of the diamond," Ryan said. "And shortstop is a basic need. And until we find a shortstop here, I don't think our defense is going to come together. Our first thought was 'Can he play shortstop?' Our evaluators said yes. I believe in Jamey's mind, he can certainly play shortstop." Carroll, who was pursued by multiple clubs according to Ryan and agent Jonathan Maurer, did not believe it would be a problem playing shortstop full time and expected to get comfortable quickly. "If you ask any infielder their favorite position, it'd be shortstop," Carroll said. "Getting the chance to really play it -- over the last few years where I didn't in Cleveland because I didn't have to -- it's exciting for me and I am excited for this opportunity." If Carroll wins the job, the Twins would be turning their most important infield position over to a player that will turn 38 in February. No problem, noted Ryan. "Yes we know his age," he said. "We also know if you visually look at him, he certainly doesn't look like he's 37 or 38. He can still really run. He's aged well, if that's the right description. We're not concerned about it." Carroll played a career-high 146 games last season for Los Angeles and said he felt fine when the season ended. "I knew I was going to hear my age," Carroll said. "I don't feel like I'm as old as people assume. I do my best to take care of myself in season and offseason. I prepare every year like I'm going to play every day." Carroll's addition is the first signing by Ryan since he took over the GM's chair from Bill Smith last week. However, newly appointed special assistant Wayne Krivsky was the club's point man in negotiations that only began last week. Krivsky was a longtime assistant GM in Minnesota under Ryan in the 1990s and early 2000s before becoming the Reds GM from 2006-08 and scouting for the Orioles and Mets. By adding Carroll, the situation for some incumbents on the Twins' roster becomes murky. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a pricey Smith signing from Japan last winter, struggled mightily along with suffering a broken leg early in the season. Trevor Plouffe and Alexi Casilla also did not excel. Minnesota plans to move Plouffe to a corner outfield spot and expects to have Casilla be its second baseman. Nishioka is still in the mix to compete with Carroll. "We need to find out what kind of player we have in Nishioka," Ryan said. "He was hurt so much. He did have a decent Spring Training last year, but it disintegrated upon the injury. We're going to clean the slate with Nishioka and see what we've got." The club seems to already know what it has in Carroll. "He plays the game the right way and will help our ballclub immensely," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said in a statement. "We are excited to have him and I look forward to working with him the next few years."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog,