The Minnesota Twins just agreed to a 2-year, $7 million contract with former Dodgers middle infielder Jamey Carroll on Friday. Carroll is being signed to be the everyday shortstop for the Twins, a year after the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka turned out to be a failure on EVERY level and options like Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert and the immortal Trevor Plouffe got chances to play in the 6-hole in 2010 to some pretty unsubstantial numbers.
Carroll has basically been a part-timer for all but a few seasons in his career, initially being drafted and coming out of the Montreal Expos system. He broke out in 2006 with the Colorado Rockies with a .300/.377/.404 split while playing great defense at the keystone, but didn’t live up to that in the years that followed with the Rockies, going to Cleveland soon after. He then signed with the Dodgers in 2010 and emerged as a versatile player with a good bat that played well at the top of the lineup in front of guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. His career line of .278/.356/.348 is pretty good for a utility guy, and his strides forward over the last few seasons to really improve his struggling plate discipline after his post-’06 decline have made him an effective player to an average of about 2 fWAR per year since ’09. His average on balls in play also plays up due to his line drive hitting ways (23.5% in LA in 2011), and he can also leg out some infield hits on ground balls.
The best thing Carroll is going to do for the Twins is bring value to a position they’ve been lacking for a long time. Save for J.J. Hardy’s time there (and even then, he was league average), Minnesota has been looking for a regular shortstop since the trade of Jason Bartlett to the Tampa Bay Rays back in 2008. Carroll brings stability and a good eye at the plate, although his defense is below average. The bright side is that Carroll can do things at the plate that the previous Twins shortstops couldn’t, and he should be a good fit atop an order that should see the return of Denard Span after his concussion issues.
For the price they got him at, the Twins should be very happy with their investment in Carroll, as the shortstop market was light after Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, both of whom weren’t on the Twins radar in the first place. For returning general manager Terry Ryan, who replaced his replacement Bill Smith on Tuesday, it’s a good move to help hold over the team for the meantime while they figure out how to improve on a 63-win season and find their way back to the top of American League Central race.