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Updated: November 16th, 2011 11:05am
Mackey: Jamey Carroll is exactly what the Twins need

Mackey: Jamey Carroll is exactly what the Twins need

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Save the Nick Punto jokes.

The Minnesota Twins' signing of aging scrapper Jamey Carroll certainly isn't a blockbuster move.

He's not Albert Pujols or Jose Reyes. He isn't Mark Buehrle, nor is he even Josh Willingham.

But perhaps most importantly, Carroll isn't Tsuyoshi Nishioka. And he isn't Trevor Plouffe.

And that, folks, was the Twins' top priority heading into this offseason -- finding someone to cleanly field a groundball and throw it to first base without injuring fans in the first two rows next to the dugout.

Carroll is expected to open the season as the Twins' starting shortstop, and he can also play about five or six other positions. And with his .364 on-base percentage over the past three seasons he is also expected to bat second in the lineup.

That on-base figure, by the way, would have led Twins' starters last season. Joe Mauer posted a .360 OBP, followed by Michael Cuddyer's .346 mark.

The two main arguments against signing a 37-year-old infielder to a team that lost 99 games are:

A.) Why not just let young guys like Plouffe or Brian Dozier take reps at shortstop?
B.) Why spend almost $7 million over two years for a guy who is almost 40 years old?

For one, those young shortstops -- Plouffe and Dozier -- aren't really shortstops. Plouffe, according to video scouting data at Baseball Info solutions, was worth 17 runs below average in only 396 innings at the position last season. That easily ranked him among the worst in the game -- perhaps the worst -- and people in the organization don't see enough upside with his range and arm to expect a change, which is why he will now play in the outfield.

Dozier is regarded as a sure-handed infielder internally, but Twins' decision-makers question whether he has enough range to play shortstop. Not to mention, Dozier, 24, has yet to play above Double-A, so even if the Twins were to throw him into the fire in April there's no guarantee he wouldn't land in Rochester by May.

At $6.75 million over two years, Carroll's presence will take up only 3% of the Twins' payroll in 2012 -- about the same as Nishioka.

But while Nishioka posted a .226/.278/.249 batting line with only five extra-base hits in 240 plate appearances, Carroll batted .290/.359/.347 in 510 trips. In 2010 he hit .291/.379/.339. Mostly singles, but he gets on base.

Nishioka also rated as one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball, rating 10 runs below average in only a half season at shortstop. Carroll rated five runs below average at shortstop with the Dodgers last season in 504 innings and one run below average in 2010. Historically he ranges much better up the middle than to his right.

And for those who care about errors, Carroll made only four at shortstop last season. Only one of those was a throwing gaffe.

Carroll isn't Omar Vizquel circa 1995, but compared to Nishioka and Plouffe he might as well be.

Not to mention, Carroll has landed on the disabled list only once in his entire 10-year career.

The Twins used the disabled list 27 times in 2011.

Age will almost certainly keep Carroll on the downward side of the curve, but for a reasonable price the Twins found a reliable presence who is likely to get on base, field groundballs and stay out of the trainer's room -- three things the Twins didn't do with any regularity in 2011.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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