Earlier today the Phillies made their 1st addition of the offseason. No, it wasn’t resigning Rollins or Madson. They didn’t sign Pujols and plan to move him to 3rd base. The player will only be a member of the team’s bench but the Philly Phaithful couldn’t be more thrilled! At around 7:00 this evening; Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported that the Phillies and Jim Thome had agreed to a 1 year contract. The deal is reportadly done but it is still pending a physical tomorrow. Despite his age and injury history, it’s very unlikely that the Phillies doctors will find anything severe enough to nix the deal. Zolecki didn’t have the financial terms of the contract but he did say he thought it would be a low risk type of signing. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweeted that the deal is believed to be worth $1.25 million.
Last year, many phans clamored for the Phillies to acquire the slugging lefty before the August 31st deadline. Thome had already hit his 600th homerun and the Twins were falling fast out of any post season contention. They decided they would do the 41 year old a favor and put him on waivers so he would get another chance at post season play. Unfortunately for the Phillies, they were in the last spot in the waiver process and everyone knew they had a slim chance at best to get him. He ultimately was claimed by the Indians and was reunited with the team he started his hall of fame career with.
After the 2002 season, the Phillies were about to enter their final season at the Vet and decided to try to change the future of the team. They signed slugging 1st baseman Jim Thome to a massive 6 year 85 million dollar contract. The signing was a huge step forward to an ownership group that was seen as cheap and stinging by the Philly Phaithful. This was the 1st step towards the spending we are seeing
Thome joined his good pal Charlie Manuel and didn’t miss a beat in his years with the Phillies. In 2003 he hit 47 homeruns while driving in 131 runs. In 361 games with the Phillies, he hit 96 homeruns and drove in 266 runs. He hit his 400th career homerun while a member of the Phightin’s and had the privilege of having Harry the K call the massive shot. “Take a bow big man!”Thome spent 3 seasons with ballclub before being dealt to the White Sox to clear room for another big left-handed hitting 1st baseman.
What role will the 41 year old play as part of the 2012 Phillies? I think a lot of it depends on the health of Ryan Howard. Many will bombard you with the facts that Thome has rarely played the field over the last few years and would be a train wreck at 1st base. But how bad can he be at first base? The Phillies under Manuel have been a team who value a players bat more than what they can contribute in the field. This is the same club that has sent Pat Burrell or Raul Ibanez out to left field for the majority of the last decade and let Ross Gload start at times in the outfield over the last few seasons.
I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities to expect Thome to get a handful of starts at 1st until Howard returns. Thome hit 15 homeruns in limited time last season and I’m sure he would have been able to get a job as a full time DH. So I would think he signed expecting to get some regular at bats until Howard returns. It’s early in the offseason, but right now I could see a platoon between RH Jon Mayberry and Thome. When Howard returns, he will then be strictly a PH and a DH during inter-league games.
The signing is the team’s first of the off-season and might signal the end to Ross Gload’s two year run in Philadelphia. He has served as the team’s primary left handed pinch hitter for the last two seasons and that is something will be presumably filled by Thome. Most off-season moves don’t seem to happen until after the winter meetings which are still a few weeks away.
I think that Thome was a player who was hurt by the steroid era as his numbers were trumped by those who juiced. Thome is just country strong and has never really been accused of taking any PED’s. Sadly he is seen by some as a borderline hall of famer, when he should be embraced as one of the greatest power hitters not only of his generation but of all time. On the clean home run list, he is only behind Aaron, Ruth, Mays and Griffey. Jim Thome is a class act and we are lucky to have him back on our team. He is one of the nicest and classiest players to ever play the game. Welcome back to Philly Big Man!!!