Cleveland Indians Should Trade for Jim Thome: A Blast from the Past
I'm sure what I am proposing will make many a long-time Cleveland Indians fan raise an eyebrow in curiosity, skepticism or both.
I assure you this was thought out thoroughly and I believe it is the best course of action for the franchise to take.
Let's get the negatives of such a move right out of the way. Jim Thome is currently on the DL. He is currently batting .214. He is 40 years old. He can only DH unless there is an emergency of epic proportions that would force him to play 1B.
Finally, I don't really like Jim Thome. Chew on that for a minute.
Let me explain that last comment to the majority of the younger readers. Growing up, Jim Thome was my favorite Cleveland Indians position player. For most of my childhood, the Indians were a laughingstock.
I have never sat through the movie Major League because it intentionally hit a little too close to home for me.
Jim Thome came up through the organization and started to come into his own right around the time the Indians turned into a juggernaut. He symbolized everything that seemed right in the baseball world to me. He wasn't a loudmouth trash talker. He wore his socks up high old-school style when almost no one else was doing it. He was a lumberjack in a baseball uniform with an "aww shucks" mentality.
I have only owned one player's jersey in my entire life, and as you can guess, it was Jim Thome.
Then he went and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for a few extra dollars—emphasis on "few." When Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez left Cleveland, they did so for substantially more money. You weren't happy to see them go, but at least you understood why they left; a dump truck full of extra money can sway a player to leave.
Thome left for what amounted to the spare change in my couch cushions. Sure, the deal he got from the Phillies was large, but I remember the Indians offer being for almost as much money. That made me bitter. I can handle a player leaving for a ton of extra money, but to see the all-time home run leader leave for pennies on the dollar was unsavory.
You root for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back of it. That is why I never bought another player jersey after Thome left.
Even though he did leave, he always spoke highly of Indians fans and he didn't go on national television to announce, "This summer I will be taking my talents to the city of brotherly love."
The LeBron James debacle helped give a little perspective on just how much I should dislike Thome. I couldn't possibly hate him anywhere near as much as I did LeBron.
The reasons I am advocating the Indians trade for Thome go far beyond sentimental feelings.
Travis Hafner has produced at an All-Star level so far this year (you can click here to see all of my All-Star worthy candidates in the AL this year). However, with Pronk on the DL, the Indians have a gaping hole at DH. Currently, they have been trotting out Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck at DH.
Heaven help us.
How do you upgrade a position when you have little-to-no payroll flexibility, the regular starter will be back in about a month and most teams are still not too far out of the playoff chase?
You search for a short-term solution from one of the few teams that is officially dead in the water.
Welcome the Minnesota Twins and Jim Thome.
Minnesota has been ravaged by injuries and is already 14.5 games behind Cleveland. Thome is not in their long-term plans so they would be more than willing to trade him.
Don't give me any bologna about not trading with a divisional opponent either—remember the Carl Pavano trade in recent history? Plus, Thome would cost a marginal player to be named later at most.
Thome is set to come off the DL perhaps as early as today. Even though he is only batting .214 so far this year, he does have an OBP of .333, which is way better than Buck or Duncan. He equals them in HR combined this year as well.
Do you want the Indians to trade for Jim Thome?
Speaking of HR, Thome is only nine HR short of 600 for his career. Watching that chase is something Cleveland fans could rally behind. It isn't like Thome is washed up anyway. Just last year, he hit .283 with an OBP of .412 and 25 HR.
I don't expect him to match those numbers, but even a big step down from those numbers is a big step up from Buck and Duncan.
In 2007, the Indians traded for Kenny Lofton in preparation for the playoffs. Lofton's third stint with the Indians invigorated the ballclub and the fans. I think a return of Thome to the Indians could do the same thing.
Even though Thome did us wrong by leaving for the Phillies years ago, he could make peace with the fans, hit his 600th HR with the Tribe, provide a presence at DH until Hafner returns and possibly help Cleveland finally capture that World Series trophy everyone wants so badly.
I am willing to bury the hatchet with Thome.
I say trade a subpar prospect or cash to the Twins and plug Thome in as the DH. Release Buck to clear a roster spot since there would still be three other left-handed hitting OF on the roster. If and when Hafner comes back from the DL in about a month, send Duncan packing.
Hafner will still need the occasional day off, and Thome can DH on those days.
Other than that, he will be a great left-handed bat to pinch-hit off the bench—especially in September when the roster size is expanded. If the Indians feel the need to trade Thome again after Hafner comes back, I am sure they will have plenty of takers if the price is right.
The Indians have too much to lose by playing with fire (Buck and Duncan) at the DH spot over the next month.
If I hear Tom Hamilton scream, "A touch of old time for Jim Thome!" after a walk-off home run one more time, it might make everything right in the world.
It is never too late to become whole again.
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