First baseman and five-time All-Star Jim Thome has officially retired after signing an honorary contract with the Indians today. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer was the first to tweet the news. Thome, who will turn 44 next month, is a veteran of 22 seasons. The Indians unveiled a statue of Thome earlier today as part of the ceremonies.
Thome’s last major league stop was with the Orioles in 2012, where he posted a .257/.348/.396 line over 115 plate appearances. He was said to be looking for another opportunity this past offseason, and he’s also expressed interest in becoming a big league manager.
He’s best remembered for his 12 year stint with the Indians, where he contributed a career high 52 home runs in 2002. He also briefly returned for part of the 2011 season. The beloved first baseman blasted 337 out of 612 career home runs as an Indian. His home run total ranks first in franchise history – he’s 95 home runs ahead of second place basher Albert Belle. Thome was worth 45.7 fWAR during his time in Cleveland, despite generally negative fielding scores. Three of his All-Star appearances came with Cleveland. The Indians went to the postseason six times during the Thome era.
Fans of Philadelphia also have fond memories of Thome. While he never carried the Phillies to the postseason, he ushered in an era of competitiveness and free agent spending that coincided with the opening of Citizen’s Bank Park. Overall, he hit 96 home runs in his first stint with the Phillies and later returned to park five more in 2012. The Phillies traded Thome to the White Sox after the 2005 season to make room for Rookie of the Year first base prospect Ryan Howard (Howard went on to win the MVP in 2006). At that point in Thome’s career, injuries were making it hard for him to play in the field every day.
With a career .276/.402/.554 line and 612 home runs to his name, Thome seemingly has a strong case for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. The home run total ranks seventh all time. Fangraphs pegs his career Wins Above Replacement at 67.7 fWAR while Baseball-Reference has a slightly higher 72.9 rWAR. His reputation as one of the “good guys” of the steroid era may help his case, although he may also have to battle a dense ballot of candidates.
As previously mentioned, Thome was a five time All-Star, including three times with Cleveland, once as a Phillie, and one time with the White Sox. He never finished higher than fourth in the MVP voting (2003), but he garnered votes in eight seasons. He also won the Silver Slugger award in 1996. In addition to his six postseason appearances with the Indians, Thome visited October four more times – each with a different team. Unfortunately, he was never a part of a World Series Champion.
MLBTR wishes him well in his new career path and congratulates Thome on an excellent Major League career.