11:10am: While I was writing the below, Frank Thomas was released. That was fast. I would expect the Jays to call up Adam Lind. They’ve lost a big chunk of run production, so they should be looking for a new DH. Barry Bonds? As for Thomas, I think there will be a lot of interest. My immediate thought is the Rays, which could come back to bite the Jays. Better suggestions?
9:48am: More drama coming out of the Blue Jays clubhouse as Frank Thomas has been benched indefinitely, sparking rumors of his potential release. Last night, the Big Hurt was keeping the bench warm in favor of Matt Stairs at DH. Even when Shannon Stewart was scratched in left field, Joe Inglett was slotted into left instead of moving Stairs there and plugging the slumping Thomas into the lineup. Reports Richard Griffin of the Toronto Sun, GM J.P. Ricciardi said this move (benching Thomas for Joe Inglett) was "just putting out what we think is our best lineup to score runs." That speaks volumes.
This doesn’t seem to be a motivational tactic by Manager John Gibbons akin to Ozzie Guillen’s annual declaration that Bobby Jenks isn’t guaranteed the closer role. Instead Griffin reports that Thomas was told by Gibbons that this replacement was "indefinite, maybe forever." In other words, the Jays might be considering releasing him and saving the $10MM owed to Thomas next season; or they could be weathering his displeasure and keeping his PAs to a minimum since the $10MM in 2009 is a vesting option that he earns by recording 1,000 PAs in ’07-’08 (he only needs 304 this year). No wonder Thomas is peeved.
Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Star reports,
If the Jays do decide to go without Thomas, to release him, they could bring up Adam Lind to play left field on an everyday basis — he is better defensively than either Stairs or Stewart — and have the veterans split the DH duties. At Syracuse, Lind, a left-handed hitter, is hitting .360 with three homers and 13 RBIs.
Adds Richard Griffin,
If the Jays wish it, his Toronto career, in fact, could be over. A revised DH combo of Stairs and either Rod Barajas or Marco Scutaro could be easier to slot into the batting order than was the slumping one-man roadblock that is the Hurt. After Scott Rolen returns from an injury rehab assignment in a couple of weeks, there will be nowhere logically for Thomas to hit.
Thomas started slowly through 60 AB last year too before putting together a .277-26-95 season. PECOTA projects a drop in average, but another 25-90 campaign. If healthy, I could see Thomas doing even better than those marks. Still, if they bench or release him it’s to save themselves from having to give $10MM to a 41 year old Thomas. If they do release him, I would expect him to get signed elsewhere faster than you can say "Barry Bonds". At which point, I would also expect a fuming Thomas to go on a Hulk-like rampage.
By Nat Boyle