Jim Thome is once again a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. It is not a surprising move, but it is an interesting one. Both parties sentimentally hoped to reunite during the 2011 season, but the Minnesota Twins traded Thome instead to the Cleveland Indians (his original team) in August. Thome has maintained a strong relationship with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who has been a big influence in his career from their time together in Cleveland.
Thome has fond memories of the Phillies and their fanbase, following that 2003 free agent signing. Thome was later traded to the Chicago White Sox following the 2005 season to clear room for then-rookie sensation Ryan Howard. That 2003 Thome signing in the final season at Veterans Stadium is widely considered the infancy of the Phillies current championship run. Neither Thome nor Bobby Abreu (nor Aaron Rowand, another fan favorite for whom Thome was traded) stuck around long enough to share in the 2008 World Series trophy.
Thome will provide a strong presence in the clubhouse and power off the bench from the left side of the plate, which the Phillies sorely lacked in 2011. This spells the end of the line for veteran Ross Gload and most likely relegates John Bowker to a one way ticket to Lehigh Valley. The Future Hall of Famer Thome also turned 41 in August and has played just 28 innings defensively since the Phillies traded him to the White Sox in 2005.
Thome has made just one appearance defensively since 2007 — a token appearance at third base with the Indians — playing exclusively as the designated hitter for the White Sox, Twins and Indians. Thome joined the Los Angeles Dodgers for the final month of the 2009 season, making 17 at-bats as a pinch-hitter and faced the Phillies in the 2009 NLCS.
There are several obvious questions with such a seasoned American League player joining a National League team. Can Manuel find Thome enough at-bats to keep him sharp? Can Thome play any first base at all while Howard misses time recovering from left Achilles surgery? Can Thome stay healthy himself? He has battled back problems over the years but the Phillies should remain optimistic. In recent seasons, Manuel used Matt Stairs, Mike Sweeney and Ross Gload almost exclusively as pinch-hitters, rarely playing them in the field. John Mayberry, Jr. (who didn’t find a full-time roster spot until 2010) played more games at first base than Stairs, Sweeney and Ross Gload combined. Howard’s injury does change the formula significantly but a platoon of Thome and Mayberry is more appealing than John Bowker or Ross Gload.
Thome hit a combined .256 with 15 HR, 50 RBIs, a .361 on-base percentage and a .477 slugging percentage with the Twins and Indians in 2010. He has hit 604 homers in his career, which ranks eighth on the all-time list. Especially interesting is considering what the Phillies lineup could look like if they make the postseason again in 2012 – with Thome as DH and Ryan Howard at first base, supplemented by Hunter Pence, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley and Shane Victorino.
The Phillies still have more moves to make in free agency and should be actively pursuing the likes of Grady Sizemore, Michael Cuddyer or Clint Barmes – not to exclude Joe Nathan or Jonathan Papelbon. Should Ibanez, Oswalt, Lidge and Rollins all fail to return it would free up a lot of payroll to sign more than one of these free agents. Madson and Rollins are the wildcards because both want to test the open market but both are career Phillies. This team needs an infusion of new talent but the jury is still split on whether or not imported talent is an improvement or simply a replacement of the more familiar names.
Phillies Future Tense http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/10/28/phillies-future-tense/
During the MLB offseason, one of PSB’s Philadelphia Phillies beat writers will offer a weekly posting regarding Phillies news. These postings will likely be on weekends unless breaking news occurs.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org