By The Common Man
The Common Man certainly does not begrudge Jamey Carroll for immediately making TCM’s offseason blueprint column obsolete. Nor does he begrudge the 38 year old for accepting the two-year contract for $7 million the Twins offered him. But The Common Man dreads watching Carroll try to earn that money over the next two seasons.
Carroll has had one of the strangest careers in modern memory. He didn’t debut until he was 28 years old and then was a utility player for the next trhee years. He put up a strong season in 136 games for the Rockies in 2006, but was relegated back to a utility gig in 2007. He filled in all over the place for the Indians and the Dodgers over the past four years, getting the most playing time of his career as a 37 year old in 2011. He has strong on-base skills and is a capable defender at second base. And the flexibility he has offered for his employers has been incredibly valuable over the years, even though he’s only started 725 times in 10 seasons.
But the Twins aren’t using Carroll as a utility player, or at his strongest defensive position (2B). And they aren’t paying him to be 34, 35, 36, or 37 years old. They’re paying him for his age 38 and 39 seasons to hold down the starting shortstop job. And, as Nick Nelson points out, they’re paying him more than half of what he’s earned in his entire career to do it.
Carroll will almost certainly be an upgrade over what the Twins rolled out to shortstop in 2011. But he’s not the best option for the club at the position, nor is he a strong bet to hold what fielding and hitting skills he has shown in the National League in the transition to the AL. It’s simply a move that doesn’t make much sense for a club that just got done going through a season with sketchy defensive shortstops.
Likely, the Twins focused on Carroll’s undeniably sure hands (career .987 fielding percentage at SS) and called it good, without considering what age has done and will do to Carroll’s range. And they focused on his grittiness and playing the game right, rather than how well he’ll play it going forward. Carroll may very well be a good player for the next couple years. But history is not kind to old players on multi-year deals. Especially those counted on for their defensive value. And the Twins, in acting quickly to secure a player who wasn’t in demand, likely overpaid both on what he’ll be worth and on how much they could have gotten him for if they’d been more patient. And they signed up a player who doesn’t actually meet their needs as much as they think he does.