White Sox acquire Jim Thome

The Chicago White Sox, fresh off a World Series championship, have acquired Jim Thome from the Phillies in exchange for fan favorite Aaron Rowand and minor-league left-handers Daniel Haigwood and Giovany Gonzalez, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2004. The trade is not official but both teams have confirmed it. It will require the commissioner’s approval because the White Sox will receive a whopping $22 million in cash to help defray Thome’s $46 million contract over the next three seasons.

Thome is 35 years old and missed most of last season with injuries, but the White Sox believe that the move protects them if free agent Paul Konerko leaves and gives them a much-needed left-handed power bat if Konerko returns.

This is a huge gamble for the White Sox. If Thome is healthy and they resign Konerko, their lineup will be improved dramatically. They also mitigated their risk by reducing the salary burden. Three years for $24 million is not outrageous, even for a slugger who might be breaking down. They have a window of opportunity with their pitching,so it makes sense to try to improve the offense and have a backup plan in case Konerko leaves.

Phil Rogers has the following take:

As much as Rowand’s approach is respected and as much as everyone enjoyed being around him for parts of the last five seasons, especially during the World Series season in 2005, it’s Thome who is on the short list of baseball’s difference-making hitters in the last decade.

He was David Ortiz back when Ortiz was floundering with the Minnesota Twins. He’s almost_not quite_a left-handed version of Manny Ramirez without the headaches.

Another way of putting it: He has resembled the 2000 MVP version of Jason Giambi more often than not the last decade.

Rogers makes a good point – Thome has been a clutch hitter. But he’s overstating the point by comparing Thome to Ortiz and Manny. Just look at their RBI numbers. Thome has NEVER been an RBI machine like Ortiz and Ramirez. For every dramatic home run, there are numerous instances where Thome fails to drive in runs. He’s always swinging for the fences. Thome will sometimes hit the dramatic home run, but great hitters like Ramirez will also hit the singles and doubles in key situations as well.

Nevertheless, the trade will probably be judged based on Thome’s ability to overcome his injuries. The White Sox gave up a big part of their future with this trade.

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