Thome agrees to 1-year, $1.5M deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Thome has hit 57 of his 564 career home runs against the Minnesota Twins.

Now it's time to even it out a little.

Thome and the Twins agreed Tuesday on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, allowing the 39-year-old slugger to return to the division he knows well and play for a contender with his time in baseball winding down.

Thome's deal includes about $750,000 in incentives, according to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn.

Even though he'll be more of a bench player than the middle-of-the-lineup-force he's been for 19 seasons, Thome was eager to join one of his longtime rivals.

"They were really excited about me coming there, so to me it was a no-brainer," Thome said on a conference call with local reporters. "I've always enjoyed the way they play and how they go about their business. To be a part of that will be a lot of fun to go there and help them win."

Jason Kubel is coming off a career-best season as the regular designated hitter, and the Twins are committed to Delmon Young as their left fielder. Justin Morneau is entrenched at first base.

So Thome will be used primarily as a pinch-hitter and a part-time DH, when Kubel needs a break or plays in the field. Kubel can move to right field, too, when Michael Cuddyer gets a day off or fills in at first for Morneau. Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't rule out occasional starts at first for Thome, either.

"We play 'em all. Everybody's going to get at-bats," Gardenhire said.

The deal is pending a physical exam.

Thome has fought back problems throughout his career, and his production has dipped in recent years after hitting 42 homers with 109 RBIs for the Chicago White Sox in 2006. Still, he'll be remembered as one of the best sluggers of his generation, and one of the few who wasn't found guilty of steroid use.

"We just signed a guy that's going to be in the Hall of Fame, and it doesn't get much better than that," Gardenhire said. "He's going to let it fly, and if he hits it it's going to hurt somebody."

Thome played for the Cleveland Indians for his first 12 years, topping out at 52 homers in 2002 before spending three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. He then came to the White Sox, who traded him to the Dodgers on Aug. 31. He saw limited action in Los Angeles.

Thome was interested in returning to Chicago, and also considering an offer from the Tampa Bay Rays, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen recently told Thome he wouldn't get enough at-bats to justify a return.

Gardenhire's sales pitch was what pushed him to Minnesota.

"Is my ability what it was at, say, 25 or 30 years old? Probably not, but I like to compete. I like to go out and play the game hard," Thome said. "That's why this is a great fit."

Thome's career batting average is .277. The five-time All-Star only had a total of 362 at-bats last year.

"I don't expect him to come off the bench and be a .400 hitter. I expect him to come off the bench and be a threat," Gardenhire said. "He looks like stinkin' Babe Ruth. He swings like Babe Ruth. We've seen too many fly against us. Now let's see some fly for us."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.