Last season prior to the trade deadline the Chicago White Sox traded away DH Jim Thome. While the trade didn’t exactly make headlines like it would have five years ago, it signaled them waiving a white flag in the divisional race.
At 39 years of age Thome is running out of time to win a ring. With the rotation the White Sox have built up and a decent overall offense they offer as good of a chance as any team does of making the World Series next season. Mind you that means any team that plays outside of Boston or New York.
Prior to last season Thome stated he planned to play two more seasons, which at the time was puzzling because Thome had one year left on his deal he originally signed with Philadelphia. I wondered what type of market there would be for an aging DH who can’t play a position. Well that market seems to be as ripe as any though Thome is limited to the teams in the American League for those same reasons. There’s no shortage of teams that look better when you put the name Jim Thome next to the letters DH and in Chicago it may be even better looking for the team and the player.
Following the 2002 season Thome left the Cleveland Indians for the Philadelphia Philles who offered Thome a large contract as they were moving into a new ballpark. Thome hit 47 homers in his first season with the Phillies to tie for the NL lead and then 42 the next. Injuries struck and coupled with the growth of Ryan Howard it was time for Thome to move on. He was traded to the White Sox and over the next four seasons fortified a lineup that already had big power ability.
Over the past four season Thome has played in 546 games and has posted a .265/.390/.539 line all while hitting 134 homers with 372 RBI. Never-mind he only appeared in 124 games last season, that was in large part to the lack of a position to put Thome at for a National League club. With that being said it’s obvious Thomes numbers were to take a drop last season but it’s worth noting Thome still averaged a home run ever 4.6 games while a member of the White Sox, a number that is up just a tad from his 4.3 in 2008 when he hit 34 homers.
Obviously the man can still swing it.
Does that mean there’s a spot for him on the White Sox? Following his trade last season the White Sox played Scott Podsednik in the DH role the majority of the time. Looking over at the White Sox roster you have to feel that the team is comfortable moving Carlos Quentin back to left field for 2010 and while it’s unclear what the team will do with center and right Alex Rios figures to occupy one of them while the resigned Mark Kotsay figure to act as a fourth outfielder/defensive sub at first base behind Paul Konerko.
You can quickly look at the rest of the team and see there’s nobody who really could provide the production at DH that Jim Thome could. Mark Kotsay isn’t Jim Thome, playing Quentin at DH only cries for another outfielder to be signed, and while I’m as high on Tyler Flowers he’s going to need a bit more seasoning before he puts up those minor league numbers at the major league level.
When Thome hit his 500th career home run it was with the White Sox, he passed Ernie Banks not too long later and while he’s 36 short of 600 there’s still some excitement that he could reach that number this season as he had hit 42, 35, 34 in his last three full seasons with the White Sox and last season was on pace for another 30-plus campaign.
You’d also be hard pressed to find many in Chicago who wouldn’t welcome Jim Thome back. He’s humble and productive and is a great presence in the community and the dugout. He’s also still searching for that ring.