Jim Thome will be returning to the Philadelphia Phillies having agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract in 2012.
Thome split the 2011 season with the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians. The highlight of Thome’s season was when he belted his 600th career homerun in August.
This will be Thome’s second stint with the Phillies. Thome played with Philadelphia from 2003 through 2005. A back injury in ’05 opened the door for a young first baseman named Ryan Howard and Thome was dealt to the Chicago White Sox the following season. In an interesting twist of fate, it is an injury to Howard that has opened this door for Thome. Howard, of course, severed his Achilles tendon while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Howard is unlikely to be ready for the start of the 2012 season so don’t be surprised to see Thome playing a lot of first base at the beginning of the year. But should Howard recover (or if the Phillies sign someone like Michael Cuddyer), Thome will be relegated to pinch hitting duty although he could be a useful weapon off the bench. Even if Thome doesn’t get a lot of playing time his presence in the clubhouse will be a welcome sight.
Thome will also be reunited with manager Charlie Manuel. In addition to his previous stint in Philadelphia, Thome had a long standing working relationship with Manuel in the Cleveland Indians first as a minor league manager before becoming the Indians hitting coach and eventually succeeding Mike Hargrove as the Tribe’s manager in 2000.
Thome has accomplished almost everything there is to accomplish in Major League Baseball except winning a World Series ring. Thome did play with the AL champion Indians in 1995 and 1997 but has never experienced a ticker tape parade in career that has spanned two decades. The Phillies represent his last best shot at attaining that goal.