Twins sign Lamb to two-year deal
Third baseman follows former teammate Everett to Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- Just last week, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was saying that the only spot in his infield he had covered for the 2008 season was first base.Now, that list of infield positions to fill is down to just one -- second base. One day after securing Adam Everett to play shortstop, the Twins filled their hole at third base on Friday by signing free agent Mike Lamb to a two-year, $6.6 million deal with an option for 2010. Lamb, 32, batted .289 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs in 311 at-bats for the Astros last season. A left-handed hitter, Lamb holds a career batting average of .281 in 844 games. Third base has been a problem spot for the Twins since Corey Koskie left via free agency following the 2004 season. Unsuccessful attempts by Michael Cuddyer and Tony Batista at the position in '05 and '06, respectively, were followed by the team moving Nick Punto to the spot. But after some success in taking over at the hot corner mid-way through 2006, Punto faltered offensively as the everyday third baseman last year. He hit just .210 with 25 RBIs in 108 games. The hope now is that the club has finally found a longer-term solution at the spot in Lamb. However, he wasn't guaranteed the starting job. "We don't give anything away, that's what I told Mike," Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "I told him that we believe you can come in and win that job. But it's going to be up to you. You have to earn it." Lamb, who will likely compete against Brian Buscher for the starting job at third base, gives the Twins an upgrade offensively. Hitting at least 11 home runs in each of his past four seasons in a part-time role -- along with a career .472 slugging percentage -- Lamb should provide another strong bat for a lineup that was lacking power last season. "We were looking for offense, and this guy takes good at-bats," Antony said of Lamb. "He might not be the 30-40 home run guy. But he takes good at-bats and keeps innings alive. He has always hit, he's just never had the opportunity to be an everyday guy." During his time with the Astros, Lamb played both third base and first base. But he was entrenched behind Morgan Ensberg at third for much of that time and never really had a chance for a full-time role. The most at-bats that Lamb has had in a season came during his rookie year with the Rangers in 2000, when he had 493.
Having been in a platoon role for much of his career, Lamb has also not had much of a chance to face left-handed pitching. But Antony said that the Twins will have him face plenty of left-handed pitchers during Spring Training when the club tries him out in the starting role.With the signing, Lamb also joins his former Astros teammate, Everett, to make up the left side of the Twins infield. The Twins signed Everett to a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Thursday after he was non-tendered by the Astros the previous day. But while some pointed to the signing of Everett as a step back offensively for a club that's ultimately seeking bats, Antony said it was just a temporary diversion from the team's primary goal of adding more offense. "Shortstop is one of those positions where you might sacrifice a little offense to get the defense," Antony said. "But with Lamb, we're right back to getting guys that can hit." Calls to Lamb were not returned. With the additions of Lamb and Everett to the left side of the infield, the Twins will likely use Brendan Harris as their primary second baseman. Harris, who was acquired along with Delmon Young in the six-player trade with Tampa Bay, hit .286 last season with 12 homers and 59 RBIs and should also give the Twins another bat with some pop. Punto's role likely will become more of a utility player, one that he filled for the club before taking over at third. "I think between Harris, Punto, Lamb and Everett, we feel pretty good about our infield," Antony said. "A lot better than we did a month ago. We have some flexibility." Despite the flurry of activity this week, the Twins certainly aren't done making moves. There still is an opening in center field and the club has yet to secure a trade for their ace Johan Santana, though they continue to talk with other teams. Many expect that hole in center to be filled in a Santana trade, but there is also the issue of pitching that could still be addressed. "We're going to be young on the mound -- especially in the rotation -- if we have to trade Santana," Antony said. "So the keys for us are going to be center field and trying to figure out what the rotation is going to look like."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.