Athletics bring back Frank Thomas
Former Blue Jays DH slugged 39 homers for Athletics in 2006
Frank Thomas, livid at being benched by Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons last week, is happy again in Oakland.
Released by Toronto on April 20, the designated hitter agreed to terms Thursday with the Athletics, with whom he hit 39 home runs in 2006.
Thomas was in the Oakland lineup for its series finale against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday afternoon, batting cleanup as the DH. He will be the team's new regular designated hitter, replacing Mike Sweeney.
Thomas was sporting No. 35 as he began his second stint in Oakland sporting that big grin that's such a part of him. In his first at-bat, he walked and scored a run.
"It feels nice to be in the batter's box," Thomas said. "It's great to be back. It's been crazy with the travel and five hours' sleep. I'm ready to go. This is where I want to be."
The deal came together in a matter of hours Wednesday after Thomas cleared waivers. Things were finalized in the early evening, and Thomas had about an hour to get to the airport and fly to Oakland from Chicago.
Oakland will be on the hook only for about $337,000 US a prorated share of the $390,000 major-league minimum salary, meaning obtaining Thomas was a good financial deal for general manager Billy Beane and a club looking to improve on its power numbers.
Known as a slow starter, Thomas went hitless in his final 13 at-bats as a Blue Jay and was 4-for-34 since homering in three straight games April 5-8.
He averaged .167 in 16 games this season with three home runs and 11 runs batted in after hitting .277 a year ago with 26 homers and 95 RBIs. Thomas has 516 career homers and a lifetime batting average of .302.
The A's entered Thursday's game with nine home runs.
"Bottom line, this was a risk worth taking," Beane said. "He looks in fantastic shape. Obviously we had a great year from him and he was a great influence on the club. It would be foolish on our part not to consider it."
Jays avoid paying $10M option for Thomas
Toronto cut Thomas partly because management and the coaching staff didn't feel they had time for Thomas to work through his current struggles.
Thomas would have been guaranteed his $10-million option for next season if he had reached 376 plate appearances in 2008.
"Maybe it wasn't a good fit there for me. I'm just happy to be back here," Thomas said. "I wasn't forcing [the Blue Jays'] hand. For them to tell me I wasn't going to play every day and I wasn't in their future plans, it really wasn't a good situation. I respect [Toronto GM] J.P. [Ricciardi] for coming out and saying that to me and we parted ways, peacefully."
The six-foot-five, 275-pound Thomas, affectionately known as the Big Hurt, signed an incentive-laden one-year contract for $500,000 with Oakland before the 2006 season.
He earned all $2.6 million of his possible bonuses based on plate appearances and keeping his troublesome left foot healthy, batting .270 with 39 home runs and 114 RBIs in 466 at-bats after missing all but 108 games the previous two seasons with the Chicago White Sox because of injury.
He left the A's after their 2006 American League Championship Series season to sign a two-year deal with the Jays worth $18.12 million US.
A career .302 hitter, Thomas is one of four players in baseball history to record at least a .300 average, 500 home runs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks. The others are Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
To clear roster room for Thomas, Oakland placed outfielder Travis Buck on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19 with shin splints and transferred six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez to the 60-day DL.
With Thomas playing regularly, Jack Cust will move to left field for the time being and Sweeney will get more time at first base along with rookie Daric Barton.
"He has a presence to him," A's manager Bob Geren said of Thomas. "Somebody of his background with his accomplishments and someone of his size, when he's on the field it has a powerful feel to it."
With files from the Associated Press