Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thome headlines continue to swirl

The Twins spent the last two off-seasons courting the services of Jim Thome to be the Twins designated hitter. He provided Twins Territory with a plethora of memories during his time with the club. The tough 2011 season for the organization meant the slugger and the Twins parted ways near the end of the year. This coming offseason has brought a new series of headlines surrounding the former Twins slugger.

The White Sox have revamped their coaching staff for next season with the hiring of Robin Ventura as their manager and Joe McEwing as the third base coach. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the White Sox are also interested in hiring Thome as the team's hitting coach. Jerry Reinsdorf, the chairman of the White Sox, has a very good relationship with Thome since his playing days on the south side and he would love for Thome to join the coaching staff.

The opportunity to be a coach has to be intriguing to Thome especially since his family lives in the Chicago area. However, the White Sox are not without their problem players from the offensive side of the ball. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios would be just some of the issues that Thome would need to address as a rookie hitting coach and he would also be surrounded by a coaching staff with other unproven coaches. All of these obstacles could be a recipe for disaster.

News came out yesterday that Thome is highly considering a return to the playing field in 2012. The 41-year old slugger would be entering his 22nd season next year and his 604 home runs rank him eighth on the all-time list. The market for Thome could be limited because of his inability to play a defensive position so his only role is to be a DH or a bat off the bench. Thome described the situation like this,
"I'll keep playing. I just need teams to call me. I can't go play in the backyard by myself. I don't know the demand for a 41-year old DH, but my passion is I want to continue to play."
With Thome's desire to return to play and the White Sox desire to hire him as a coach, there could be the outside chance he would serve both roles with the team next season. Kenny Williams, the White Sox General Manager, considered naming Paul Konerko as the player-manager for their team during their recent search for a manager. This means the White Sox are open to the possibility of a player serving in a dual role for the team.

The Twins and Thome had a great relationship over the past two seasons. Ron Gardenhire worked with Thome to give him the rest he needed to be productive on the field and Thome was also able to be a clubhouse leader for the team. That being said, it seems as if Thome's time with the Twins has come to an end. In a recent phone interview, Bill Smith let Twins season ticket holders know that the club will be looking for more versatility on the bench next season.

In 93 games this season, Thome hit .256/.361/.477 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI. He is also only one season removed from a magical 2010 in which he batted .283/.412/.627 with 25 home runs. His age, inability to run, and lack of defensive versatility makes his options for teams very limited. Overall, his experience does make him a valuable asset to a coaching staff, but will a team be willing to have a limited DH on their 25-man roster? It worked well for the Twins and it's now time for another team to give Thome a final trip through the American League.


John Gregory said...

Looks like the Twins are considering offering a contract to Doumit. That almost dictates carrying a third catcher for defense (presumably Butera). To carry Thome in addition, is probably too much of a luxury in an era of 12 man pitching staffs - with 8 positional starters you have only 5 slots for all backups plus DH, and so you could have only one backup infielder and one backup outfielder. And Thome is no longer able to offer 500+ PA a year.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

Thanks for the comment, John. You are correct in making the assumption that Thome won't be back with the Twins. That's why the bulk of my post was about him going to the White Sox or another American League team.