Blue Jays Release Frank Thomas
The Jays released The Big Hurt today, rather than be on the hook for a $10 million vesting option in 2009. No other team was going to pick up that contract either, so just eating the deal outright was the Jays only real alternative, since Thomas had no interest in being a part time player. I wrote up a longer post on this over at fangraphs.
Should the M’s pursue Thomas? It’s an interesting question. He’s undeniably better than Jose Vidro, and he can still provide some offensive thump from time to time. The Mariners could use another power hitter, and getting Vidro out of the line-up on a regular basis means that his terrible option won’t vest for 2009 either. (Note – since Thomas was released, his contract will not carry over to his new team. The Blue Jays deal with him will be irrelevant to whatever the M’s would give him – no vesting option to worry about.)
However, I’m not sure Thomas is what the M’s really need. He’s a right-hander who hits over half his balls in play into the air, making him an awful fit for Safeco Field, even though he does have opposite field power. Replacing Vidro with Thomas makes the line-up even more RH heavy (leaving only Ichiro, Ibanez, and Wilkerson as LH hitters), and would prevent the team from considering acquiring an outfielder and shifting Ibanez to DH, which really should have happened two years ago.
Thomas wants to play and the M’s need a hitter or three, so it would make some sense, but I’m not sure he’s an ideal fit here. He’d make the team better, but perhaps not better enough for it to matter, and the opportunity cost of making an even more impactful move down the line is fairly high. I can see reasons for and against.
In the end, what it comes down to for me is this – if the team is completely unwilling to make Ibanez a DH in 2008, then they should make a play for Thomas – they won’t get a significantly better bat at the deadline to replace Vidro, and they get an extra few months of upgrade instead of waiting until the summer. But if the team is willing to consider improving the defense and getting a left-handed hitting outfielder, that would be a better move.