It’s not every day a team signs a player with over 600 career home runs. Jim Thome is at the twilight of his major league career but he should still have enough left in his bat to provide a significant impact as a pinch-hitter to the 2012 Philadelphia Phillies.
Thome, 41, posted a .256/.361/.477 line between the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians in 2011. He hit 15 home runs and drove in 50 runs in 324 plate appearances, including his 600th career blast.
The Phillies signed Thome as a left-handed power hitter off the bench, a la Matt Stairs, the 2008 postseason hero for the Phillies. Thome will also be expected to contribute at first base with Ryan Howard expected to miss until early May with a torn Achilles tendon, and reports say Thome is in the best physical condition of his life.
GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. said Thome could play first base as many as four to five times per month. Thome has played just 28 innings at first base since leaving the Phillies after the 2005 season, but first base is one of the easier defensive positions and he shouldn’t make or break the team with his defense. Thome will provide pop off the bench and he will likely hit double-digit home runs, although it depends on the number of at-bats he is given.
Thome is far enough along in his career that he’s terrific at hitting lefties – in fact, Thome posted a higher OPS in 2011 against lefties (.878) than righties (.822). He also posted a higher on-base percentage and hit home runs at a greater rate when facing a lefty, so he won’t have to bat strictly against right-handed pitchers.
Thome is also the consummate professional – he’s a class act, a fabulous teammate, and a great all-around guy to have in the clubhouse. Philly fans will love having Thome back, and he will love being back. Like Dontrelle Willis, this was another very underrated signing.