Phillies sign veteran slugger Thome to 1-year deal
PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jim Thome wants his second stint in Philadelphia to come with the World Series title he missed the first time around.
Thome agreed to a $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Phillies on Saturday, returning to the franchise for a second time.
The 41-year-old Thome hit .256 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI in a combined 93 games with the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians last season. He batted .350 with runners in scoring position and .424 over his final 11 games of the season.
“Every player sees the way the Phillies have done things,” Thome said. “They’ve set the bar very, very high.”
Thome played for Philadelphia from 2003-05 and has remained close with Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, his hitting coach for several years in Cleveland.
“Everyone knows my relationship with Jimmy,” Manuel said. “But he’s not here because of that. He’s here to contribute to our team in a positive way, both on and off the field.”
Thome hit .260 with 96 home runs and 266 RBIs in his first stint with the Phillies.
“I think the Phillies have set the bar very high in baseball,” Thome said. “This is as good a place in baseball right now to be in.”
Thome has a .277 career average with 604 homers and 1,674 RBIs. He is one of just eight players to hit more than 600 homers.
Thome was once considered the Phillies’ franchise player when he signed as a free agent in the winter of 2002.
With his down-home charm and mammoth homers, Thome was an instant hit in Philadelphia. He led the NL in homers in 2003 with 47 and hit 42 the next season. In the final game at Veterans Stadium in 2003, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt raised Thome’s hand at home plate in a symbolic passing of the torch.
On June 14, 2004, Thome hit career homer No. 400 in Philadelphia.
Back and elbow injuries limited him to 59 games in 2005, when he slumped to .207 with seven homers and 30 RBIs in 193 at-bats. Ryan Howard’s emergence made it easier to consider moving Thome.
Howard is recovering from surgery on his left Achilles. Thome, expected to add some left-handed pop off the bench, could be called on to play first base. Thome said he’ll be preparing this offseason. Aside from a symbolic appearance at third base for the Indians in his finale at Progressive Field this season, Thome has not played defensively since 2007.
Thome had been taking his career year by year. When Amaro and the Phillies called early in the free agency period, Thome jumped at the reunion.
“When a team like the Phillies called, that’s a great opportunity to be in,” he said. “There was history here. I think to me, it was a good decision.”
Thome went to the World Series in 1995 and 1997 but the Indians came up short both times. He left after the 2002 season and signed a six-year, $85 million deal with the Phillies. Thome helped usher in the Phillies’ move to Citizens Bank Park in 2004 and their rise to NL East contenders.
He was traded before the Phillies started their current run of five straight NL East titles. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and were eliminated this season by eventual champion St. Louis in the NL division series.
Winning a World Series is the lone void over Thome’s stellar career. He believes a return to the perennial NL power can help win him a ring.
“When they win, they create a lot of very good things,” Thome said.