Phils sign Thome to one-year deal

Jim Thome rounds the bases after hitting his 600th career home run in August. He hit his 400th as a member of the Phillies in 2004.
Jim Thome rounds the bases after hitting his 600th career home run in August. He hit his 400th as a member of the Phillies in 2004. (DUANE BURLESON / Associated Press)

Pending a physical, the team's popular former first baseman will return to fill in for rehabilitating slugger Ryan Howard.

Posted: November 05, 2011

Eight years ago, the Phillies had to woo free-agent Jim Thome with a tour of their still-to-be-completed ballpark, a night out at a Flyers game, dinner at a fancy center-city restaurant and, of course, millions of dollars.

This time, the courting was much easier.

All the 41-year-old Thome wants is a chance to win his first World Series, and his old buddy Charlie Manuel manages one of the few teams with a terrific chance of fulfilling his career-long pursuit.

It was no secret at the trade deadline last season that Thome wanted to return to the Phillies as the Minnesota Twins faded from the playoff race. In fact, even before the season started, a baseball source said that Thome wanted to finish his career playing for Manuel and the Phillies.

Instead, he had to settle for taking one final bow with the Cleveland Indians in the city where his career started.

Now, after agreeing to a one-year deal that was first reported on the team's website Friday night, Thome will be reunited with Manuel next season. A baseball source confirmed the agreement. reported that the deal is worth $1.25 million, pending a physical that is scheduled for Saturday.

Attempts to confirm the deal with the Phillies were unsuccessful, and Thome's agent, Pat Rooney, did not return phone calls.

It should be interesting to see what role Thome plays next season, especially early in the season when it is possible that first baseman Ryan Howard still will be recovering from surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in his left foot.

As a free agent in 2003, Thome came to the Phillies as a first baseman and remained in that role before suffering a back injury that opened the door for Howard to take his job and become the National League rookie of the year in 2005. That offseason, former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick traded Thome to Chicago White Sox for centerfielder Aaron Rowand and pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

Since then, Thome has played for the White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Twins, and Indians. What he has not done much is play anywhere in the field. He has logged a total of 28 innings at first base over the last six years, so it could be a stretch to think that he will spend much time at first base even if Howard cannot play during the first couple of months of the season.

Despite his age, Thome still has some pop behind his sweet lefthanded swing. In 324 plate appearances with the Twins and Indians last season, he batted .256 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBIs. He had a .361 on-base percentage and an .838 OPS.

In 2010, Thome batted .283 with 25 home runs for the Twins. He had a .412 on-base percentage and a remarkable 1.039 OPS, and finished 18th in the American League MVP voting.

At the very least, Thome will give Manuel the slugging lefthanded bat off the bench that was sorely lacking in 2011.

Ross Gload was the Phillies' primary lefthanded bat off the bench in 2011, and he did not hit a single home run.

Thome has a career .277 batting average with 604 home runs and 1,674 RBIs. During his three seasons with the Phillies, he batted .260 with 96 home runs and 266 RBIs. He finished a career-best fourth in the MVP voting after hitting 47 home runs for the Phils in 2003.

Extra bases. The Phillies also re-signed veteran infielder Pete Orr to a minor-league contract. Orr, 32, made the Phillies' 25-man roster out of spring training last season and bounced back and forth between the big-league team and triple-A Lehigh Valley throughout the year. With the Phillies, the lefthanded hitting infielder batted .219 with three doubles and four RBIs in 46 games. . . . Former Phillies assistant general manager Chuck LaMar joined the Toronto Blue Jays as a special assistant with an emphasis on amateur scouting. LaMar, 55, had been in charge of the Phillies' player-development system the last three years, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. described his departure as "a disappointment" in September. LaMar has not spoken publicly about leaving the Phillies. . . . Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin interviewed with the Chicago Cubs for their vacant manager's job. Mackanin is a native of Chicago.

Baseball America updated its Phillies' top-10 prospects list Friday. Here is the newest list: 1. Trevor May, RHP; 2. Jesse Biddle, LHP; 3. Sebastian Valle, C; 4. Jonathan Pettibone, RHP; 5. Phillippe Aumont, RHP; 6. Freddy Galvis, SS; 7. Justin De Fratus, RHP; 8. Brody Colvin, RHP; 9. Jiwan James, OF; 10. Maikel Franco, 3B. . . . Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino will appear on a special Veterans Day episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on Nov. 11.

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577,

or @brookob on Twitter.

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