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Nomar Garciaparra

One last hurrah?

Last Wednesday, Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN only gave Nomah a 26% chance of playing in 2009.  He points to last winter, when a number of the game's stalwarts were unable to find jobs--guys like Kenny Lofton, Sammy Sosa and, of course, all-time home run record holder Barry Bonds.  This year's crop of veteran ambassadors to the game is no less prestigious, with the futures of Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Moises Alou in the balance, but if any of them were to find a job with the Twins, Nomar Garciaparra might be the only one with anything to offer.

Before we even get to what he has to offer, there's the miniature obstacle of his health.  Garciaparra gravitates toward the disabled list, like Nick Punto to the kid's table at Thanksgiving.  He hasn't played a full season since 2003, and over the last five seasons has averaged 88 games a year.  Just to drive the point home, as far as I can tell this is a complete list of his trips to the DL since 2004.

March 31 - June 9, 2004:  Right Achilles Tendonitis
April 21 - August 5, 2005:  Torn Left Groin Muscle
April 4 - April 22, 2006:  Strained Ribcage Muscle
July 30 - August 9, 2006:  Right Knee Sprain
August 14 - September 4, 2007:  Strained Left Calf
March 30 - April 16, 2008:  Microfracture in Right Hand
April 26 - July 4, 2008:  Strained Left Calf
August 1 - August 12, 2008:  Strained Medial Collateral Ligament

Turning 36 in July, and after three stints on the disabled list in 2008, is it worth using that 25th roster spot for a guy who might be better serving his career by riding off into the sunset?  Maybe not, but there's a definitive role he could fill, and it's an area of need for the Twins.

Over the last three years, Garciaparra has hit southpaws to the tune of .289/.368/.502, with 11 home runs in 235 at-bats.  Whatever the case is, he's been seeing the ball better from left-handed pitchers, because he's not only hitting for more power but he has better strike zone control as well (29 walks against just 20 strikeouts).  So knowing what we know about his history of injuries, how could the Twins protect him, and still find a role for him?

That's where it gets tricky, because guys of Nomar's stature aren't always keen to play platoon and mentor roles and that's really the only role he'd be playing for the Twins.  He wouldn't get any starts against right-handed pitchers, wouldn't get more than a handful of starts in the field, and as a result would be looking at a season of maybe 250 plate appearances tops...85% of which he'd be getting through starts versus southpaws as a designated hitter.  The rest would come through late game pinch-hitting opportunities and, when absolutely necessary, maybe a couple of starts in the field.

Finally, there's the issue of money.  For all of this to work, Garciaparra would have to not only be willing to take a diminished role on an up-and-coming club, but he'd have to be willing to accept a reasonable contract as a result.  I'd offer one year for $2 million, plus incentives for playing time and results.

There are a number of good decisions for this organization to make over the next three or four months.  I'm not convinced that signing Nomar (NOMAH!) Garciaparra is one of those good decisions, but at the right price he's still an interesting consideration.