Jamey Carroll often marvels at his own gnarled fingers between plays. Oh, and he's hitting pretty well lately. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE
Jamey Carroll's Twins career didn't really get off to an auspicious start. Maybe it was the transition back to the American League. Maybe he was trying to figure out how Matt Maloney actually struck people out all Spring Training. Maybe he was too busy cursing himself for selecting No. 8 because Ron Gardenhire refused to acknowledge him as anything but "Nicky" for the first five weeks of the season. Or maybe he just had a bad month.
Whatever the reason, Carroll was batting a whopping .200/.301/.233 as of May 2. If you look at his numbers since that date, however, Carroll has done everything he was supposed to do when Terry Ryan signed him last November.
Over his last 40 games (38 starts), Carroll is batting .293/.358/.353. He's chipped in five stolen bases (while getting caught twice) and played three positions -- all of them pretty well. Ben Revere and his hot bat have displaced Carroll from the No. 2 spot where he began the season, but he's thrived at the bottom of the order. He's also been a consistent source of good at-bats. Carroll's 4.04 pitches per plate appearance rank seventh among qualified middle infielders, and his 9.9 BB% trails only Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, and Trevor Plouffe among Twinkies with 50 or more plate appearances.
All told, Fangraphs has Jamey Carroll at 1.5 wins above replacement already. With a going market rate of a little more than $5M per win, it's tough to complain about the 38-year-old's performance.
The other thing to of course consider in all of this is what Carroll's recovery from a dismal April will do for his trade value. Carroll isn't the type of player who's going to land an impact starting pitcher; the Diamondbacks aren't sending Trevor Bauer or Tyler Skaggs to Minneapolis. But while many might be quick to write off the notion of a team surrendering any type of real value for Carroll, there are instances of teams landing quality prospects in recent years for middle infielders well into their 30s whose numbers weren't vastly better than Carroll's.
Last season, despite just a paltry .197/.272/.248 slash line through the first half in Los Angeles, Rafael Furcal found himself in the midst of a trade that sent Alex Castellanos from the Cardinals to the Dodgers. Castellanos was batting .319/.379/.562 as a 24-year-old at Double-A. He went on to be named the Dodgers' No. 9 prospect this offseason by Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. Castellanos is batting .355/.455/.768 in 28 Triple-A games this season and has made his Major League debut. Furcal had nearly $4M left on his deal, and the Dodgers paid just over $2.5M of the bill.
The Twins themselves parted ways with former second round pick Tyler Ladendorf to rent Orlando Cabrera from theAthletics for a few months in 2009. Cabrera, 34 at the time, was hitting .280/.318/.365 at the time. He was set to earn about $1.75M for the remainder of the season. Ladendorf had signed for $673K one year prior as the No. 60 overall pick in the draft. Baseball America had dubbed him the best junior college prospect in that draft class (he was batting .542 with 16 homers in mid-May at the time of that evaluation). Ladendorf didn't pan out, and his stock had already dropped by the time of the trade, but acquiring a recent Top 60 selection in the draft in exchange for a mediocre veteran at short was a favorable risk for Oakland. The A's kicked in $500K to facilitate the deal.
These are just a pair of deals that strike me as comparable to Carroll's current situation. Other trades have seen a then-highly regarded Tim Alderson sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez had comparable average/OBP numbers to Carroll, but better power numbers and a batting title (even if it was a fluke) on his resume. Jeff Keppinger turned into a pair of high-strikeout relief prospects for the Astros. Mark Ellis was hitting .217/.253/.290 and still netted Oakland a pair of warm bodies.
The Twins aren't going to acquire a Top 100 prospect for Carroll, but that doesn't mean he has no value. Carroll of course, needs to continue hitting from now until he's theoretically traded. And, the Twins would likely need to kick in some cash. Carroll is making just $2.75M this season but will earn $3.75M in 2013 and has a $2M option that becomes a player option with 401 PAs next season. Any acquiring team likely wouldn't be looking to Carroll as a starter for 2013 though (just as the Twins probably weren't), so that's unlikely to be a factor.
Carroll can also be a nice supplemental piece to a deal for another player. Pairing him with Matt Capps, Denard Span, or any other player on the block could be a sweetener that entices a team to give up a bit more.
The alternative, of course, is that he keeps hitting and the Twins simply hang onto him. I can think of far worse things than a No. 9 hitter with a .340-.350 OBP that's only costing my favorite team $2.75M for a season. If he finishes with solid numbers, he could appeal to a wide variety of teams this coming winter.
Steve Adams also writes for MLBTradeRumors.com, RotoAuthority.com, and MLB.com Fantasy Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter: @Adams_Steve