Today, April 20th of 2008, the Blue Jays made a surprising move and released Frank Thomas. Thomas is a no doubt HOFer who can still mash the ball into the thermosphere. But this season, he's gotten off to an incredibly slow start. He batted a bum .168 with 3 homers and 11 runs batted in. The power numbers show he can still be a real force in a line-up, but he swings and misses far too much now. Toronto is tied for 6th worst in the homers category as a team which says they could use some more power. Thomas started out slow last year too and still hit .277 with 26 homers and 95 RBIs. So either they just made a huge risk because of the contract Thomas had or they can tell he's really done. Not only is this an interesting dilemma for the Blue Jays and Thomas, it's also interesting for the other 13 teams in the American League. They're now 2 looming options on the free agent market that have yet to be picked up but can work wonders in the DH hole. Thomas is one and the other is the current homerun king, Mr. Barry Bonds.
Like basically everyone, I'm tired of hearing about Bonds and glad he's not playing. But he can be a great option for a team looking to put butts in the seats and hit more dingers. So we have two 40-somethings that you can still build a line-up around on the market. So will these guys get picked up by anyone? It wouldn't surprise me if both of them did or didn't. Or if one of them did and the other one is still looking for a job at the end of the 2008 season. So, if these guys get signed, which teams are we talking about here? Here's some suggestions (we can rule out all National League teams as both of these guys are now tailor made for the DH slot):
Rays- With Cliff Floyd on the DL, another big, lefty, power bat that can take walks sure is enticing. Not only will Bonds add experience to a still young team but he'll create more buzz around the franchise and more people are sure to show up at the games. But this move is anything but a sure thing. The "buzz" I said in the last sentence might be the worst thing that could happen. With a young team like this, a clubhouse cancer like Bonds is the last thing you want. Thomas would make more sense because he'd cost less and he wouldn't as much of a headache. With that said, Thomas hasn't been the perfect angel in his career. Out all teams, the Rays and the next one are the most likely to take these guys in.
Royals- This organization is on the way up. Their starting pitching with Bannister, Meche, and Greinke and Soria in the back of the pen is looking scary for the future. Even their hitting is getting better with rising stars Brett Butler and Alex Gordon. While Brett Butler already has "DH" written all over him, he's still only 22 years old. That's way too young to limit someone to the DH. They're going to try to find a position that Butler can field at least adequately. The GM Dayton Moore has done a fantastic job of changing the mood of the franchise and adding some excitement in the mix. While adding a big name like Bonds and Thomas will bring more hype and help the line-up, the Royals already have one questionable clubhouse presence in Jose Guillen. Not only has he had problems in his career fitting in, but he's failed a steroid test and was about to be suspended before MLB implanted their new steroid policy.
A's- On the west coast, small market, and in the middle of a rebuilding project. Seems like the perfect place for these guys. No pressure, they would be guaranteed a starting job, and Billy Beane loves going for the vets that have something to prove. But it might cost the A's too much dough to have these guys for 1 year when they won't carry them to the playoffs.
Orioles-If they landed Thomas, it'd be an add/subtraction situation. With Thomas being in the same division, he'll try his hardest to prove to the Jays that he can still rake. And the O's would reap the benefits. The only reason they'd choose Bonds instead of Thomas is the O's need more people coming through the gates. Even if they got Bonds, Orioles fans have had enough. They are currently 11-7 right now. How'd that happen?
White Sox- There's no way on earth Thomas is coming back to the White Sox, but Bonds is a possibility. A very slim one, but a possibility nevertheless. There's been rumblings, but rumblings usually mean absolutely nothing.
Blue Jays- You never know. They might just turn around and sign Bonds now. He might not be up for going to Canada though.
These teams make the most sense to take a risk with Thomas or Bonds. So, lets say you're the GM of the Devil Rays. You're hovering around playoff contention yet you still can't get enough people showing up to watch. You know you need another hitter and big name to help the team both of the field and off the field. Who do you go for? Thomas or Bonds?
Both hitters have their pros and cons. As far as who will produce more, it's not that close. Last year, this was Bonds' main line
AB HR AVG RBI R SB
340 28 . 276 66 75 5
He had an OBP of .480. That's ridiculous for any hitter of any age. Bonds is a bigger presence in a line-up and had a better overall year than Frank Thomas did last year. That's amazing considering he's older than Thomas, he had to hit in AT&T Ballpark, and had no protection whatsoever around him. So as far as overall production, it's not that close. But with Thomas, he's a much better clubhouse guy than Bonds (even though that‘s not saying much because basically everyone is) and you know he'll be more motivated than Bonds to show everyone he can still play...I mean...hit. So Bonds has the advantage for his numbers, but Thomas isn't as much of a wrench.
As for the Blue Jays, it was probably a smart move on their part. Now they won't have to pay Frank for next year and they'll bring up Adam Lind to man LF with Shannon Stewart and Matt Stairs sharing DH duties. This creates more flexibility for the team. The Blue Jays must put up more runs on the board and Thomas wasn't consistent enough. He can't run and doesn't play defense, so he has to hit well or else he's gone. Well, he's gone. Gone from the Blue Jays at least.
So what do you think? You think anyone should get these guys and what teams? Who'd you rather have if you had to pick? Frank Thomas or Barry Bonds?