Who is the newest Twins' member Jamey Carroll?

The first order of business for the new old Twins' general manager, Terry Ryan, was to sign 37 year old free agent Jamey Carroll to a 2 year, about $7 million contract with a $3M mutual option for the 2014 season (his age 40 season.) Several reports from the Twin Cities indicate that he is intended to be the Twins' starting shortstop in the 2012 season. However, by looking at Carroll's past, I suspect that there might be another intention in the Twins' organization with this signing. And to make a long story short, I do think that, despite his age, it is a good signing and Carroll can be a valuable player for the 2012 Twins. Who is Jamey Carroll?

Jamey was born on February 16, 1974 (he will be 38 in the beginning of the 2012 season) in Evansville, Indiana and was drafted as a shortstop in the 14th round of the 1996 draft by the Montreal Expos out of the University of Evansville. He is listed as 5'10" and 170 lbs. He played in the minors until the 2002 season, all in the Expos' organization, appearing in 384 games at 2B, 198 games at SS and 166 games at 3B. He was a September call-up in 2002, appearing in 13 games at 3B, 3 games at SS and 1 at 2B, and remained as a major leaguer with the Montreal organization up to the 2005 (their first season in Washington, DC) primarily as a utility infielder, filling in primarily at 3B and 2B, and occasionally at SS.

A few days before his 32nd birthday in 2006, he was purchased by the Rockies for $300,000 where he was used as a second baseman (before the Rockies acquired Kaz Matsui) and occasionally filling in at SS and 3B with a handful of appearances at the OF. In the 2007 season he was a utility infielder and traded in the offseason to the Indians for a player to be named later. In his 2 seasons in Cleveland he primarily played at second and third. He also filled in at the outfield, but did not play a single inning at SS for 2 seasons. He was a free agent after the 2009 season and signed a 2-year, $3.75 million contract with the Dodgers to be a utility player. Because of the injuries (and subsequent trade) to Rafael Furcal, Carroll spend a considerable time as a shortstop (69 games in 2011 and 63 games in 2011) a position he really did not play steadily until his early minor years (and that was a century ago.) He also played considerably as a second baseman with occasional appearances at 3B and OF. Jamey won the Roy Campanella Award from the Dodgers after the 2010 season for exhibiting leadership and hustle.

A lot of the things the Jamey brings to the table are not in the numbers. He is been seen as a leader in the clubhouse and on the field. A recent LA Times article summarizes his career with the Dodgers as "Carroll wasn’t much of a hitter with runners on, but he hit .290 in his two seasons with the Dodgers, was a solid glove and he will certainly be missed. He was scrappy, well liked among teammates and truly versatile." I think that the same words could be used to describe a soon-to-depart Twins' free agent right hand bat or could had been Nick Punto's eulogy after the 2010 season.

Let's examine Carroll's numbers: Carroll is very consistent with the bat. His career slash line is .278/.356/.348 (.704 OPS) and his 2011 line .290/.359/.347 (.706 OPS). His career splits are: at home games .285/.362/.353 (including Coors field) and away games .270/.350/.343; before the all star break .278/.358/.347 and after .277/.353/.349; vs RHP .281/.357/.351 and vs LHP .271/.354/.343; in day games .274/.364/.347 and in night games .279/.352/.348. And his career minor league line is .270/.340/.342. Jamey Carroll is the definition of consistency with the bat no matter who is pitching or where the game takes place. You know what you will get pretty much every day, which is refreshing if one looks at the 2011 Twins' season in perspective.

Jamey did not make the cut in my middle infielders with better than average fielding list. Despite the fact that every single report out there describes his fielding as "solid", he is a below average fielder (and especially at SS.) His fielding Value in 2011 was -5.1, and that would place him ahead only of Plouffe, Nishioka and Valencia in the 2011 Twins. Given the fact that he might be replacing at least 2 of these player in 2012, this is a step ahead for the Twins. In the same middle infield analysis I indicated that the Twins needed to upgrade hitting and base running as well and Carroll is an asset there: His 2.2 WAR would have tied him for second in the 2011 Twins with Denard Span; His 3.9 Batting value would place him second among the remaining 2011 Twins trailing only Chris Parmelee, and his 1.1 Base Running value would place him third behind Revere, Hughes and Span among the remaining Twins in the 2011 team. Dissecting his fielding numbers a little more indicates that his fielding percentage (career .823 in SS) is excellent, and probably the reason behind the "solid fielder" accolades. However his range is his weak point. His career range at SS is -8.1 (8 runs below average) and will not get any better beginning with his age 38 season. His range has been better at 2B (career -1.8) and at 3B (career 3.2.) As a comparison, Alexi Casilla's career SS range is 4.2.

I suspect that the Twins may have signed Carroll as a wake up call message to Danny Valencia. I can see him being the starting shortstop and moved to second or third with Casilla taking over at SS. Carroll is a clubhouse leader, plays the game hard, is the definition of consistency with the bat, does not make errors on the field (but does not get the balls most shortstops do) so he will be an asset. I think that overall is a very good acquisition for the Twins.

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