Monroe AND Clark?
With the Arizona Diamondbacks not having any success trying to re-sign the 35-year old switch hitter, a number of sources have sited the Minnesota Twins expressing interest. Tony Clark, who reportedly is seeking a two-year deal, is a target of a handful of teams; teams likely seeking an inexpensive bench option.
A career .265/.339/.491 hitter, Clark has had an on-base percentage higher than .310 only once since 2001. With a string of injuries which fall under the "lingering and reoccurring" category more than they fall under the "serious" category, it has meant that the former power-hitter has largely been limited to backup and platoon duties. While he still has the strength to force a ball over the fence, there is no speed left which means he is a strictly station-to-station runner if the ball stays in the park.
VS LHP VS RHP
Year AVG OBP SLG AVG OBP SLG
2002 .159 .188 .256 .228 .296 .306
2003 .279 .355 .500 .215 .279 .462
2004 .196 .242 .348 .236 .326 .522
2005 .313 .394 .539 .299 .352 .684
2006 .125 .276 .125 .213 .280 .417
2007 .219 .286 .438 .254 .314 .524
Over the last six seasons, Clark has had only one statistical performance that was anything more than mediocre. He always has more at-bats as a left-handed hitter (facing right-handed pitchers), but it appears that what he loses more than anything as a right-handed batter is his power. Batting averages and on-base percentages simply swing between low and lower.
At the same time, if the Twins are legitimately chasing Clark, they must realize what kind of a player he is at this point in his career. Arizona gave him 221 at-bats in 113 games in 2007, which is exactly how he should be used should he become a Twin. An occassional start is okay, but more than anything he should be a pinch hitter to be used versus right-handers. Not because he's so much better at this specific skill than the other way around, but because it's the only part of his game left which can be classified as useful, and classified as better than anyone else the Twins could put on the bench.
In Replacing Torii Hunter I mentioned that the Twins would need to find imperfect players to replace Hunter's power, the most expensive of his attributes to replace. Clark is one of those imperfect players. If he signs, judge him as a player whose job is to make the bench better; as a player who can provide power off the bench late in the game, if nothing else. This won't necessarily be a bad acquisition, as long as the Twins land position player improvements elsewhere.
Let's say the Twins do bring in Clark. Is having both Tony Clark and Craig Monroe on the major league roster a good decision? With Clark probably seeing limited time as a first baseman and designated hitter, how would this affect Monroe's playing time? Monroe isn't fast enough to play center field, and with Cuddyer and Kubel penciled in as your other starting outfielders, is his potential pricetag (between $3.5 and $4 million should the Twins release/re-sign him...someone correct me if my estimate is off) worth his probable playing time? You could be looking at a Monroe/Clark platoon at designated hitter; how much of an improvement is this over Jason Tyner, who is much cheaper between the two, and who hasn't had an on-base percentage lower than .331 since coming to Minnesota?
The larger question, the one guiding each one I asked in the previous paragraph, is this: Is the money used on Monroe and (if it happens) Clark wisely spent?