The ripple effect of signing Jim Thome
January, 11, 2011
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com
The Rangers are very interested in Jim Thome, someone that's been on their radar since the Winter Meetings when they were going through possible DH options.
Thome is 40 years old and a proven hitter. He has a career .278 batting average and signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Twins in 2010 in hopes of showing he could still swing the bat. And that's what he did, pounding 25 homers and putting up 59 RBIs in 276 at-bats. He has an impressive track record and there's no reason to think he still won't be productive in 2011 (he turns 41 in August).
Thome finds ways to get on base. He had a .412 on-base percentage in 2010. To put that in perspective, it was higher than anyone on the Rangers. Josh Hamilton was .411. Thome had a 1.039 OPS, only Hamilton on the Rangers was better.
Signing Thome will cost money. The fact that Lance Berkman got $8 million from the Cardinals on a one-year deal means Thome's 2011 salary is headed upward. So what would signing Thome mean?
* He would likely become the primary DH against right-handed pitchers. Thome hit .302 with 19 homers and 45 RBIs in 189 at-bats against righties in 2010.
* That means Michael Young would DH against lefties, but for him to get additional at-bats, he'd likely have to play more first base (as the fill-in role around the infield wouldn't be enough). Young knows that he will be learning some first base in spring training. If the club gets Thome, that may prove even more important. Thome, by the way, hasn't played first base on a semi-regular basis since 2005 and his last game in the field at first was 2007.
* So what does that mean for Mitch Moreland? The rookie who was so impressive in 2010 wouldn't be on the field as much as planned if he's in the majors. Does the club consider sending him to Triple-A? It's an option. Ranger fans know from previous seasons that sometimes rookies come through with great years and then struggle at times to find it again (see Chris Davis). But Moreland sure seemed like he took hold of the position late in 2010.
* The other plan for the DH spot when the club signed Adrian Beltre was that it would be utilized to give some guys some time off their legs while Young played some infield positions, etc.
* Could this move impact David Murphy? It would in that he'd have to play against his fair share of left-handed pitching to get in the lineup. Murphy has dealt with that before. And in 2010, he hit .272 in 114 at-bats against left-handed pitching.
* But imagine the opposing pitcher having to go up against a lineup that would also include Thome. (More on that tomorrow on the blog). Manager Ron Washington could hit Thome in the 5-hole behind Adrian Beltre and ahead of Nelson Cruz.
So we'll stay tuned. As ESPN.com's Buster Olney noted, the Twins are still in this game and want Thome back. But he sure would look good in the Rangers lineup. Texas could always make some other moves to alter some of these ripples to where the pieces fall together more easily. But, to me, it's worth doing. He strengthens the overall lineup, no question. If only he were a right-handed hitter (meaning since he's not, Young will likely have to play more first base and alter things for Moreland. Young can do it, but as we discussed, it alters things for Moreland).
What do you think of adding Thome? Should the Rangers do it?