Thursday, August 24, 2006

Thome Envy

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Ok, I’ll ask – what’s with Minnesota’s perennial Jim Thome envy?

When he was a free agent, signing him was the most talked about subject for the Twins early that offseason. That was following a year in which the Twins not only ran away with the AL Central, but also won the first round of the playoffs. It was the most talked about subject despite the fact that nobody in the organization even hinted that there was any interest. Not to mention that Thome’s guaranteed money was likely to be well over what the Twins spend for a year on their whole team. If Thome so much as said he wouldn’t mind playing for the Twins, it was news around here. It was baffling.

Two years later, as the season started slowly, the biggest criticism of Terry Ryan’s offseason wasn’t that he trusted rookie hitters too little; it was that he didn’t trade for Jim Thome. It might be the second most common complaint about Ryan, right behind the whole David Ortiz thing. And like the Ortiz thing, it’s little more than an unsubstantiated cheap shot. What isn’t fully understood is that the Phillies didn’t trade Thome to the White Sox; Thome traded Thome to the White Sox.

New Phillies’ GM Pat Gillick took over a team that had two sluggers for one position. Thome was a 35-year-old with 40 home run power who had been hurt most of the previous year and would make $43 million over the next three years. Ryan Howard was a 26-year-old with 40 home run power who would make approximately $400,000 this year. So it wasn’t a terribly tough decision, especially because it’s not like Gillick had signed Thome.

But there was a hitch; Thome had a no-trade clause. And so a dance began. The Philly press would ask Gillick what he was going to do about next year. And Gillick would say he would explore options. So the Philly press would ask Thome if would invoke his no-trade clause. And Thome would talk about getting healthy and getting a chance to play in Philly some more. Neither, wisely, worked the other into a box.

But apparently, Thome made it clear that the Phils could only trade him to a team close to his home in Peoria, Illinois, and the team had to be a contender. You don’t have to break out a map to see that leaves one team. Fortunately, that team also had a center fielder (Aaron Rowand) they could trade, and the Phillies had needed a center fielder since the days of Lenny Dykstra.

If there’s any doubt that Gillick’s hand was forced, just look at what else he traded to the White Sox: $22 million to help cover Thome’s salary. Which means that Thome is playing for the White Sox for just $7 million per year, or just a bit more than the Twins paid Shannon Stewart.

The Twins had zero chance of wooing Thome as a free agent. Their chances of acquiring him in a trade were less than that. The Ortiz and Thome myths are driven by the players’ successes, not by reality.

3 comments:

TheBentKangaroo said...

Same with Frank Thomas, methinks. I thought Rondell was a better pickup, not only because Frank's career seemed to be in a terrible tailspin (a la Juan Gonzalez), but because the Twins wouldn't like Hurt very much anyway, cuz he's not a super fun clubhouse guy.

But boy, do the A's look smart.

Anonymous said...

The A's got lucky is more like it. LOL

Walter Hanson said...

Look the A's did what they could. They went out and got a decent slugger. Should've the Twins tried to sign Frank? Reputation for injuries, a bigger salary than Rondell White wanted, not to mention a bomb waiting to go off. Let the A's have him. The big hurt still might do to the A's what he failed last year destroy the White Sox effort to win the world series.