Friday, August 26, 2011

Fare thee well, Jim Thome

Cleveland? Right down there.

Tragic number: 17.


So ... The Twins waived Jim Thome this week, and Cleveland won the claim on Wednesday, and the Twins and Indians agreed on a deal, and Thome agreed Thursday night to accept the trade.

Just in time for the Jim Thome Wind-up Walker giveaway tonight at Target Field.

I doubt anybody is particularly happy with this conclusion. It's just better than any of the alternatives.

Thome wants a shot at a World Series title. Cleveland has a better chance to provide that than the Twins do, but not a good one. He would have preferred Philadelphia, but the Phillies, as the top team in the National League, would have needed everybody else to pass on Thome.

There was a way to get Thome to Philadelphia. Step 1: Thome rejects a deal with Cleveland. Step 2: The Twins put Thome on release waivers, with Thome again utilizing his complete no-trade clause to reject any claims. Step 3: Thome signs with the Phillies.

That would have been ideal for Big Jim, but not so much for the Twins. They would still have owed him the rest of his salary, and they would get nothing from the Phillies. This gets the Twins the ubiquitous player to be named, and moves the remainder of his salary to the Indians. The savings is a small portion of their payroll, but considering that they were over budget from the moment they re-signed Carl Pavano, the savings are probably welcome. The player they get is unlikely to be significant, but you never know.

The only reason for the Twins to finangle Thome to the Phillies would be to make him happy — maybe even with a under-the-table agreement for his return. That may not interest them. Thome was a big help in 2010, not so much this year, partly because he was part of the injury brigade — which is to expected. He's 40, he has a chronic back issue, he can't play in the field. He has to hit A LOT to make using a roster spot on him worthwhile.

The Indians were probably only interested in Thome because they lost Travis Haefner, their regular DH, to a foot injury. With a healthy Haefner, they have no use for Thome. Even so, they're 6.5 games behind Detroit, and their chances of making that distance up are slim. And a significant portion of the Cleveland fan base resents Thome for leaving as a free agent after the 2002 season.

For the Twins in 2011: This deal opens a spot on the 25-man roster AND on the 40-man roster, which means almost anybody could be called up. As of late Thursday, there was no word on who was getting the call. My guess: Rene Rivera, which would give the Twins three catchers. He's coming up in September anyway.

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