Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Thome Don't Play That (1B)?

Ned Colletti pulled off a pretty surprising and gutsy move at the trade deadline, picking up Jim Thome from the White Sox and Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks right before the music stopped and everyone had to take their seats. Garland's acquisition aside (which is obviously protection given Hiroki Kuroda's uncertain recovery, as well as general uncertainty surrounding the viability of Vicente Padilla and Charlie Haeger), I'm especially intrigued by the addition of Thome.

Thome brings yet another 500 HR bat to the team (joining Manny Ramirez), and even if his best days are well behind him, the prospect of having both power bats in a lineup together--particularly when we've had power outages from Russell Martin, Rafael Furcal, and James Loney all year--has to make any Dodger fan salivate.

In the moments after the trade, however, it's a little vague where Thome would play, given the presence of Loney (a defensive premium even if he lacks Thome's sock) at first base.

It's not immediately clear what role Thome will fill for the Dodgers. He has been exclusively a designated hitter the past two seasons and hasn't played first base -- the position he played earlier in his career -- since appearing in one game there in 2007. He hasn't played first base full time since 2004.

"I'm not saying you won't see Jimmy at first, but I want to talk to him," Torre said.

James Loney is the Dodgers' regular first baseman, but he has only nine homers.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti envisions Thome playing a role similar to the one Matt Stairs filled for the World Series champion Phillies last year -- he hit a key home run against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

"We're not bringing him over here to play first base," Colletti said. "We're bringing him here to come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse. He's one of the true great guys in the game.

I don't remember much about Matt Stairs except his back-breaking HR off Broxton in the NLCS Game 4. Which is enough, I suppose, to justify Thome's presence in itself. If we get a backbreaking homerun from Thome in the NLCS? I'll take it (even if Rob Neyer and Bill Shaikin are puzzled with the move).

Meanwhile, the PH alternative of Mark Loretta (who has 0 HR this season anyway) has been in steady decline since a decent first month, with an OPS shrinking from the 800s to the 500s since May 1. Juan Pierre can still slap one and get on base, but having a big stick like Thome can't hurt our roster, as far as I can tell.

If the Thome move gives James Loney a couple of days off in September, cushioned by a 5.5 game divisional lead and weak opponent schedule down the stretch (reflected by our 99% chance of making the playoffs), that also might be a nice benefit. Maybe Loney can keep working on his weight transfer during his swing, which seems to have improved of late with a couple of home runs last week. I don't think Loney, 14 years Thome's junior, is in danger of losing his regular spot; Thome don't play that. Occasional time off (or innings off at the end of a game) might help Loney restore and rejuvenate before the post-season.

All this to say, welcome to the Dodgers, Jim Thome. Hope to see a lot of you--more so at the plate than on the field, but still.

UPDATE 1.13p: MSTI has a good analysis, and positive outlook, on the Thome pickup. Not so positive, btw, on the Garland move.

11 comments:

Gagne's lucky glasses said...

From what I read, it sounds like Thome was saying that he couldn't play 1st on a regular basis anymore so maybe they could bring him in to pinch hit for the pitchers spot in the 7th or 8th and take Loney out (if they didn't want to lose Thome's bat for the rest of the game).

Fred's Brim said...

havent read it yet but had to give props on the title!

Dusty Baker said...

Mad props to the title of this post.

I heard/read same thing as GLG, and agree with that assessment. This also could mean Eye Chart's chances are slim of making it back at all.

Fred's Brim said...

I am with MSTI on giving up Abreu for Garland's 5 starts. But I also can see that if he's good for us these next few weeks, even if he doesn't make the playoff roster, keeping him for next season. Does that option still exist or did AZ buy out those options?

Fred's Brim said...

I read that Eyechart, post injury, would at best be competing with Beast Mode and Johnny Damon in the noodle arm contest

Dusty Baker said...

Damn, I thought I had a lock on the noodle arm contest.

Fred's Brim said...

off to ogle Maria Sharapova! hopefully i'll be back in time to catch the last few innings of an 8-1 victory!

rbnlaw said...

The Thome deal seems almost too good to be true. Did the Soxos Blancos owe us a favor, or did they feel bad taking 2 of 3 from us during interleague play?

The Garland deal could come back and bite us like a rattler on the defensive. I've never been overly impressed with Abreu because of his knack for hurting himself, but he seems a steep price to pay for 5 starts.

Dusty Baker said...

MLB Homeplate Tweets:

"GM Ned Colletti tells Jody McDonald and Rob Dibble that Jon Garland will start Thursday and he has not ruled out a 6-man rotation"

Thoughts on a 6-man rotation?

rbnlaw said...

My thoughts on the 6-man rotation:
"But these go to eleven."

Ken said...

Hmm, is it because he can't field anymore, that's why he isn't playing 1B? Seriously, Thome unable to walk is still better than Loney this year.