Jim Thome: Free Agent at the End of the Season
Jim Thome is one of the most interesting free agent cases out there this season. At 38 years old, Thome is still a very productive hitter and remains one of the top power threats in the American League with 20 home runs this season. There is no doubt that Thome can still be a productive force in the middle of any lineup. However, how much will his age and inability to field hinder his market this offseason? Let's take a look:
The Case for Thome
1. The man can hit.
Aside from his injury plagued 2005 season, Jim Thome has not hit less than 30 home runs since 1995. Thome cannot be counted on for 45-50 homers like he was in the past, but around 30 home runs a year should be very manageable. And while Thome might not come near his lifetime average OBP of .405, he can still be relied on to draw a good amount of walks with a solid .370-.380 OBP. That consistency is quite remarkable. Whatever team signs Thome should know one thing, the man can produce with the stick and drive in runs.
The Case against Thome
1. He can't play the field
Thome has not played the field since 2005 and should not be considered anything more than a full time DH at this point in his career. He needs to remain in the American League and offers very little flexibility.
Next season, Thome will turn 40 years old. Even though he's still productive at this stage in his career, in my opinion, it's impossible to give Thome anything more than a one or two year contract. Also, at what point will Thome's numbers take a nosedive? Power hitters generally don't age well. Maybe Thome is the exception.
This is one area where Thome's consistency is not beneficial. With the exception of his injury plagued 2005 season, Thome has ranked in the top ten in strikeouts in every season since 1995. As long as Thome hits for enough power, the strikeouts are something that the team will have to live with.
Thome offers something unique in the upcoming market: a power hitter, who will not require a long term commitment. The only two guys out there, who I see as competition for Thome are Carlos Delgado and maybe Jason Giambi. For my money, I'd go with Thome.
1 year/$8.5 million with incentives and a team option for 2011
Here are some comparable contracts:
-Jason Giambi (1 year/$4 million)
-Pat Burrell (2 years/$16 million)
As long as Thome continues to produce this season, I see no reason why he shouldn't get paid the same amount as Burrell ($8 million per year). But his age makes me hesitant to give him anything more than one year guaranteed, so the option for 2011 seems like a good idea if Thome is still productive and wants to play.
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