Twins finish 2-year deal with vet SS Jamey Carroll

There is much to fix before the Minnesota Twins can climb back

into contention. Terry Ryan knew right where he wanted to start

when he resumed his role as general manager.

Veteran infielder Jamey Carroll signed a two-year contract with

the Twins worth at least $6.5 million, a deal announced Wednesday

that includes a mutual option for the 2014 season. Carroll will

turn 38 before spring training begins, but that didn’t scare away

the Twins, who’ve had four opening day shortstops in the last four

years – plus five other players who’ve started several games at one

of the sport’s most important positions.

”We had issues trying to make the routine play,” Ryan said,

referring to last season’s 99-loss debacle. ”I think everybody saw

that. If we can solidify that, it’ll help our pitching staff and

it’ll help a lot of things.”

Carroll is an ”old school type player” as manager Ron

Gardenhire put it, a scrappy, fundamentally sound, trustworthy

veteran who will be asked to stay healthy, set a good example for

the young guys, be strong with his glove and get on base.

He’ll be the quarterback on defense, not offense, but he batted

.290 in 452 at-bats with a .359 on-base percentage last year for

the Los Angeles Dodgers so he’s capable of some production even

though he has only 12 career home runs.

”I understand who I am at the plate. I understand my part of

the game and how I fit in the lineup,” Carroll said. He added: ”I

have no problem going 0 for 4 and moving four runners over to third

base. Hopefully we got four runs out of it, and we won 4-3.”

Ryan said that Carroll will compete for the starting job, but

the Twins didn’t sign him to be a utility man.

He’ll make $2.75 million this season and $3.75 million the

season after that, with the opportunity to earn bonuses for

incentives such as 550-plus plate appearances or winning a Gold

Glove award. If Carroll has 401 or more plate appearances in 2013,

he’ll have the option to return to the Twins in 2014 for $2 million

or become a free agent. If he doesn’t make it to the batter’s box

that many times in 2013, the Twins will have the option, either to

keep him at that agreed-upon 2014 salary or buy out his contract

for $250,000.

”I understand this position that we’re in right now and how

this team is made up. I obviously did my homework, and I’m excited

for this opportunity,” Carroll said. ”I understand that if you

want anything in life you’ve got work hard for it to be rewarded. I

knew I was going to hear my age. I don’t think I’m as old as people

think. I do my best to take care of myself in the offseason, and I

go out there with the mindset that I’m going to be playing every

day.”

Carroll’s agent, Jonathan Maurer, said several other teams

aggressively pursued his client with multi-year offers. He credited

Ryan, special assistant Wayne Krivsky and Gardenhire for each

contacting Carroll to express their interest.

”Yes, we know his age,” said Ryan, who replaced the fired Bill

Smith last week. ”We also know if you visually look at him he

certainly doesn’t look like he’s 37 or 38. He can still run. He

looks like he’s aged well.”

This is Carroll’s fifth organization in 10 seasons. He has a

.991 career fielding percentage, with experience at second base and

third base. But he’s here to play shortstop, which leaves Tsuyoshi

Nishioka’s future with the team unclear after an injury-impacted

first year in the majors.

Nishioka signed a three-year contract last December for $3

million annually plus a $250,000 buyout if his 2014 option isn’t

picked up by the Twins for $4 million. They also spent $5.329

million on the posting fee, which as the highest bidder to his

Japanese team gave them exclusive negotiating rights. He could be

sent to Triple-A to continue his development, after committing 12

errors in 68 games and hitting just .226 with five extra-base hits

in 221 at-bats.

”We need to find out what kind of player we have in Nishioka,”

Ryan said, insisting he’ll have the opportunity at shortstop.

Since Jason Bartlett was traded after the 2007 season, the Twins

have used nine different shortstops and at least four each year.

They signed Adam Everett in 2008, made a late-season trade for

Orlando Cabrera in 2009, acquired J.J. Hardy for 2010 and then

pursued Nishioka last year. Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt

Tolbert, Alexi Casilla and Trevor Plouffe have all taken their

turns there, too.

Casilla is the second baseman now, and Plouffe will be moved to

the corner outfield spots to take better advantage of his power

potential at the plate.

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