Re-Sign Thome - Or Keep Kubel?

Jason Kubel played 99 games in the outfield, in 2010 - 83 in right field and 16 in left. He also played 42 more as the designated hitter, with just ten of those coming after the All-Star break. So when the Twins picked up Kubel's option for 2011, agreeing to pay him $5.25 million for next year, it was easy to think of Kubel as a right fielder.

Assuming that Justin Morneau is healthy, though, he's not. Michael Cuddyer is the team's right fielder (and backup first baseman). Cuddyer's making over $10 million next year, so he's virtually immovable (unless the Twins were to take back an even worse contract). And so, you'd have to pencil in Kubel at the designated hitter spot in the lineup.

But then, there's Jim Thome - everybody's favorite tater-mashing DH. Thome signed a contract for less than what Brendan Harris was making last year, then led the team in home runs and nearly led the team in walks in just 340 plate appearances. Thome was a revelation; he even provided perhaps the best Target Field moment of the year. He's charming, classy, and fun to have on the team, and you'd have trouble finding a Twins fan who didn't want him back.

After a year like that, though, Thome won't come so cheap. He's a free agent, and he should have plenty of suitors promising him more money and more at-bats, even though he'll turn 41 next year and dealt with a balky back during 2010.

The Twins signed Thome in 2010 with the idea of having a big bat off the bench, plus an occasional DH. But if you want him in the Twins lineup in 2010, one of Kubel, Cuddyer, Morneau, or Delmon Young has to sit. It's possible to envision a rotation of those five. What's harder to imagine is that the Twins will spend up to $10 million on two designated hitters that both hit left-handed.

With holes in the middle infield and in the bullpen, the Twins may have a difficult choice. They can install Kubel as the everyday DH, let him give Young, Cuddyer, and Morneau occasional days off and days at the DH spot, and let Thome part on the best of terms. Or they can trade Kubel, give Thome 550 at-bats, and hope that the big guy doesn't sleep wrong and miss three weeks.

There are scenarios in which the Twins could afford both, but near as I can figure, they involve either dumping JJ Hardy, or experimenting with a bullpen scenario that I like to call DisasterPen 2011. So I'll leave it to you to vote: would you rather trade Kubel, let Thome walk, or take some risks elsewhere?

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