Would A Thome Return Have Made Sense?

The Los Angeles Dodgers were busy on Monday, making two moves to add to both their starting rotation and their offense. The additions of Jon Garland and Jim Thome were huge for the Dodgers and beg the question of whether the Phillies should have been in the hunt to bring Thome back to town.

When the July 31 trade deadline was approaching, it was the Cardinals who made a few quick moves to improve their club. They added Julio Lugo, Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday, who have all produced for the Cardinals. Lately, they added John Smoltz, who has gotten off to a solid start in a Cardinals' uniform and figures to help their starting rotation.

Now, with the August 31 deadline approaching, it was the Los Angeles Dodgers who made the news, adding Jon Garland and Jim Thome. Garland gives them a much needed starter, who can be counted on to pitch often and well and give the Dodgers a veteran presence in their rotation that they had been looking for all season.

The addition of Thome gives them a potent left-handed bat to bring off the bench and to get some occasional playing time at first base.

To get Thome, the Dodgers gave up minor league shortstop Justin Fuller, who was an 11th round pick of the Dodgers in 2006. Fuller is just a career .242 hitter in the minors and has barely above average fielding skills. A comparable Phillies offer would have been infielder Travis Mattair, who is hitting .241 at Lakewood this season. Mattair might even have a higher upside because he's a little younger than Fuller. To make the deal even easier for the Dodgers, Chicago is picking up part of Thome's remaining salary for the rest of the season.

Returning Thome to Philadelphia would have been a nice touch. He would have given the Phillies an immediately recognizable and powerful bat to add to their bench. He also knows many of the players in Philadelphia and would have fit well in the Phillies clubhouse. And unlike when the Phillies traded him, there would be no first base controversy, since Ryan Howard has established himself as the Phillies first baseman, he would have no need to watch over his shoulder at the veteran Thome.

The Dodgers also have a left-handed hitting first baseman in James Loney, so Thome isn't likely to see much time at first for L.A., which likely isn't a concern for the former Phillie, who has played just four games at first base for the White Sox since exiting Philadelphia. Thome has been making his money as a designated hitter, which neither the Dodgers or Phillies have the advantage of using, making Thome a piece of the bench.

To get the deal done, Thome had to approve the trade and it's hard to see where he would have turned down a chance to return to Philadelphia. He was much loved in this town and left on the best of possible terms. He would have also been reunited with long-time friend and mentor Charlie Manuel.

Thome needs 36 home runs to reach 600 for his career and it's likely that when he enters free agency this off-season, he'll be looking at American League teams where he can again DH. If he were to consider a National League team at all, it would have to be one where he would be given the chance to be an almost every day first baseman. Those qualifications make it highly unlikely that Thome would sign with the Phillies as a free agent and even unlikely that he would have accepted arbitration following the season, which would have given the Phillies at least one compensation pick for losing Thome as a free agent and possibly, two depending on where he would finish the season in the Elias Rankings.

The investment in Thome would have been worthwhile for the Phillies to pursue. The cost in terms of the prospect needed to get Thome and the fact that the White Sox kicked in at least part of his remaining salary would have made the deal palatable for the Phillies. It would have also given them a good clubhouse presence, who could either compliment or replace the slumping Matt Stairs, who remains the Phillies top left-handed power bat off the bench even though he is in an 0-for-27 slump.

Instead, the Phillies now face seeing Thome come out to battle against them late in a post-season game. Can you see the reactions now if Thome were to beat Brad Lidge in a key spot in the post-season? That would be a tough one to swallow.

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