There are many solid and rational reasons why Thome doesn’t fit into the Yankees’ plan. Here are a few:
- Taking one of the 25 roster spots severely limits Joe Girardi‘s roster flexibility by keeping one guy who can only hit.
- The roster is already lefty-heavy.
- He will turn 40 during the 2011 season.
- He will likely want more playing time than the Yanks can offer.
Yet, despite the prevailing logic that there’s no true need for a DH on the Yankees, I’ve long been a fan of Jim Thome. By all accounts, his character is off the charts and a great addition to any locker room. The idea of watching him take aim at the short porch in right field is certainly tantalizing. Looking at Thome’s 2010 results, we can only be impressed at his effectiveness: 25 home runs in only 340 plate appearances (108 games) while posting a superb slash line of .283/.412/.627. Thome’s 2009, aside from his 17-game pinch-hitter stint in LA, was comparable with 23 home runs in 417 plate appearances and 249/.372/.493. Can the Yankees get him even 300 plate appearances? Doubtful, unfortunately.
Then there is the Manny Ramirez conversation. There are plenty of reasons for the Yanks to avoid Manny (as Buster Olney noted here) and not all of them are the same as for Thome. Manny brings plenty of off-field baggage that Thome has avoided, to be sure. Manny’s advantage to the Yanks is that he is right-handed and that’s something the Yanks could benefit from. Manny is no longer capable in LF, particularly in the spacious LF-CF grass of Yankee Stadium.
Having some fun at Fangraphs.com, comparing the Isolated Power for Manny vs. Thome paints an interesting picture:
Thome’s power has remained top notch over the last five years, even with a reduced number of plate appearances, while Manny’s has trended downward. And if you shift Manny’s ISO points to the left one spot to match up their ages, Thome has outperformed Manny each of the last five years. The story is somewhat similar when looking at wOBA: Thome and Manny are reasonable comps for each other the last several years, though 2010 represented a big separation as Thome rebounded while Manny’s three year slide continued.
Thome’s contractual needs will likely be rather modest, probably less than Manny’s requirements, though neither will be in a position for a significant guaranteed contract. With other DHs out there who could help out in the field (Johnny Damon, Vlad Guerrero, etc.) in better positions to command multi-year deals, Thome and Manny will be fall-back options for teams needing a DH.
The Yankees do not need another DH, much less an aging DH with little ability to don a glove if needed. However, if the team has the roster flexibility, adding a player with the character and skills of Jim Thome would be a fun move to root for.
It won’t happen, but that won’t stop me from dreaming about it.