The first free agent of the 2011 class has landed – Jim Thome, in Philadelphia. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com is reporting the one year deal. Terms haven’t been disclosed, but it’s expected to be just a one year pact. Thome made $3 million last year with the Twins and Indians.
The deal is questionable if the Phillies expect Thome to play every day while Ryan Howard is rehabbing from his torn Achilles. He has played just 28 innings in the field since returning to the American League after the 2005 season. Last season, Thome had an .838 OPS playing for Minnesota and Cleveland.
If the Phillies don’t expect Thome to start at first base while Howard is out, he’ll be filling the role of left-handed pinch hitter, which was occupied by Ross Gload last season. Gload has more versatility than Thome, as he has the ability to play corner outfield positions as well. Thome will be a better option off the bench than Gload against both lefties and righties. He had 91 plate appearances against southpaws last year, and 233 against righties. Against the lefties, Thome had an .878 OPS, while he had an .822 OPS against righties. Gload on the other hand, only received four hitless plate appearances against lefties, and had a .614 OPS in 114 plate appearances against righties.
I understand the move if the Phillies are just looking for a bench bat. But if they’re looking for a replacement for Howard, who will probably miss at least the season’s first two months, it seems like a little bit of a short-sighted move.