Frank Thomas was released from the Blue Jays this past week; he was struggling and had problems with management. He’s considered one of the top hitters in the last 15 years; sure he’s on the decline, but he can still hit.
Which teams would benefit from the Big Hurt?
First off, let’s eliminate who wouldn’t need him.
All National League teams are out – he can’t play the field and he strikes me as someone who would retire before he became a professional pinch hitter.
That leaves the AL teams. Toronto is obviously out. We can figure teams with a permanent DH don’t need him – Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, Tigers. The Angels have too many outfielders, so one of them is guaranteed a DH spot. The Orioles could use the power, but have Huff and Payton to split DH time.
That leaves 6 teams: the Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Rays, Royals, and Twins.
Where does he fit in Oakland? The A’s have plenty of players that can fill the DH spot. Jack Cust and Mike Sweeney fill most of the at bats there. Both also play in the field occasionally. Sweeney is pretty much a part time player at this point, and he’d stay that way. Cust can play an adequate left field; he’d permanently displace Emil Brown, which isn’t a bad thing. Thomas is familiar with the team and management and could be a good fit. I don’t see it happening, though, since the team is looking at Gabe Gross of the Brewers.
Where does he fit in Seattle? When Jose Vidro is your DH, you know you need an upgrade. Sure, he can hit for average, but most teams want more than 6 home runs from their DH. He’s better suited to a part time role in the field; he could split time with Richie Sexson at first and file in for Jose Lopez at second. Thomas adds power to the lineup; outside of Sexson and Adrian Beltre, they could use it. I don’t see Thomas coming here either. Jeff Clement would be better off getting the time at DH; he’s got nothing left to prove in the minors, hitting-wise.
Where does he fit in Texas? The Rangers have 2 guys they primarily use at DH: Frank Catalanotto or Jason Botts. Catalanotto, much like Vidro, doesn’t have much power and is a serviceable outfielder. Botts looks more like a platoon partner for Ben Broussard at first base. Milton Bradley has also taken at bats in the DH spot, but that’s because he’s coming back from his knee injury. Thomas is a definite upgrade; imagine the numbers he could put up in this park. GM Jon Daniels has already shot down signing Thomas, but his manager has recently stated his desire to add the slugger.
Where does he fit in Tampa? Well, it would take some shuffling, but he’d help the team a lot. They currently are using Carlos Pena as the DH, with Jonny Gomes see at bats at that spot too. Pena will return to first when he’s fully healthy. Gomes has been playing in right field on days when he’s in the field. To bring Thomas in, they’d have to send down Nathan Haynes; he’s their defensive replacement/speed off the bench guy. I think he’s also expendable. Eric Hinske has been playing the corner infield and outfield for the Rays and would be the back up for those positions. They could also work with Elliott Johnson and Dan Johnson in the OF for depth. I don’t see this happening just for the fact that the Rays have good young options that need playing time; bringing in an older player would hamper that. Plus they’ll have more roster move to come when guys start coming off the DL.
Where does he fit in Kansas City? Right now KC uses Billy Butler as the primary DH, with Ross Gload at first. Butler can handle first, and his bat needs to be in their line up. Gload gets pushed to the bench so Thomas could DH. There’s been no word if the Royals are really interested; I’d have to imagine they would be.
Where does he fit in Minnesota? The Twins always are on the lookout for cheap talent. Since Thomas is already being paid by the Blue Jays, he wouldn’t have to take much to join the team. They currently use Jason Kubel and Craig Monroe in the DH spot; Kubels also been playing the outfield for the injured Michael Cuddyer. At this point, the Twins are better off sticking with Kubel – a former minor league batting champion. They know they don’t have what they need for this year, so signing Thomas would only block young players that will contribute down the line.
I think KC is the best bet. The division looks like it’s in shambles right now. Cleveland and Detroit are off to horrible starts. Minnesota isn’t going to contend this year. Chicago is the main threat at this point, and adding their former DH could play mind games with the Sox (it could also re-start the entertaining feud between Thomas and Sox GM Ken Williams; they both had some great sound bites after he left).