Jim Thome hasn’t played first base in more than 3 games in a season since the last time he put on a Phillies uniform in 2005.
He played in 3 games at first base for the White Sox in 2006.
Ryan Howard—the player who made Thome expendable in 2005—is going to be out until May at the earliest after tearing his achilles tendon making the final out in the Phillies NLDS loss to the Cardinals.
But he’s going to be back.
None of this stopped the Phillies and Thome from coming to an agreement on a 1-year, $1.5 million contract.
The Phillies take defense seriously and with their pitching staff, it’s clear why. As likable as Thome is, it won’t take long before his lack of mobility becomes a problem if balls that should be caught are rolling through the right side of the infield.
Are the Phillies seriously considering using Thome—basically a statue and 41-years-old—at first base?
Is he a replacement as a lefty bat off the bench for Ross Gload? Gload could play the outfield and first base; Thome’s much more of an offensive threat.
And if they’re not intending to give him consistent at bats, then why did Thome sign with them so quickly when he could’ve waited to see if an offer from an American League club—the Red Sox; Blue Jays; Yankees; Mariners—came along so he could play more often? Thome hit 15 homers in 324 plate appearances with the Twins and Indians in 2011 and posted a still-impressive .361 on base percentage. He can still hit and is capable of playing regularly as a DH.
So why go to the National League where the DH is not an option?
I can’t imagine the Phillies using Thome at first base more than twice a week if he’s capable—and there’s no guarantee he will be—so he’s going to be a pinch hitter.
For the Phillies, it’s a great pickup…as long as they don’t intend to drastically compromise their defense to accommodate Thome.
For Thome, it’s a quick decision and conscious choice to be a very part-time player.
The Phillies sometimes make some odd decisions that eventually make sense.
Earlier this year, they were inquiring about Michael Young and no one understood why until it was discovered that Chase Utley would be out for a large chunk of the season and that Placido Polanco was battling multiple injuries; they could’ve used a versatile veteran like Young to fill in for Utley, Polanco and Jimmy Rollins.
Perhaps there’s a logical explanation for the Thome signing apart from him enjoying his time with the Phillies and not being bothered about getting, at most, 250 at bats for the whole season; but right now, I can’t see one other than nostalgia—and a signing based on nostalgia is not a good thing unless it’s for a one day contract.
And I never really understood those either.