Free agency is only two days old, but we’ve already had one future Hall of Famer change teams. Former Twin Jim Thome has signed a $1.25 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Thome slugged 96 homers with Philadelphia from 2003 to 2005, and his return is sure to be well-received by the team’s fans.
After waiting until January to sign with the Twins each of the last two seasons, Thome decided not to play the waiting game this year. The two January signings earned him the sixth spot on my recent list of the best ever Twins free agents. He may not achieve that level with Philadelphia, but he’ll almost certainly bring a positive clubhouse attitude and much appreciated left-handed power to the Phillies lineup.
Thome has not spent a lot of time in the field recently. In fact, other than a token appearance at third base last September, he has not played any position other than designated hitter sicnce 2007, when he played first base in three games for the White Sox. Obviously, there is no designated hitter for the National League’s Phillies, but Thome should get plenty of opportunities to pinch hit for Philly pitchers. It may be the perfect role for the aging superstar, whose recent history of minor injuries prevents him from playing on a regular basis.
As we all know, Thome hit his 600th career home run for the Twins in Detroit last August. He stands at 604 for his career, eighth most all time. He is also 26th on the all time RBI list with 1,674, 22nd all time in slugging percentage (.522), and eighth all time in walks (1,725). He has also been an All Star five times.
The only thing Thome hasn’t accomplished is winning a World Series title. He came close twice with the Indians, in 1995 and 1997, but the Tribe suffered heartbreaking losses both times. In a cruel twist of fate, Thome was traded from the Phillies to the White Sox after the 2005 season, which meant that he missed both the Sox’ 2005 championship and the Phils’ 2008 victory. But his latest move gives him one last shot at the elusive goal. Philadelphia will almost certainly be among the NL’s contenders next year on the strength of their star studded pitching staff.
There will probably be no small number of Twins fans cheering Mr. Thome on if and when the Phillies get back to the playoffs. Regardless of one’s opinion of the team itself, a Philly win would be a perfect ending to the career of a player that nearly everyone likes and respects.