Although it is the middle of December, it appears as though the Tampa Bay Rays lineup is close to being set. Through their trades and free agent signings, the Rays have a fairly good idea as to who will be suiting up for them come Opening Day 2013. Yet, despite these moves, the Rays still have need for a power bat and an open spot for a designated hitter.
Of course, the problem with locating such a player either on the free agent market or via trade is to locate one that fits the criteria required given the Rays financial situation – a relatively proven player that comes cheaply. Fortunately, there is a current free agent that, despite the risks associated with him due to age and injuries, would fit what the Rays look for. That player is none other than Jim Thome.
While Thome does come with risk, having battled back injuries over the past couple of years, he has still been able to hit home runs somewhat frequently. In 168 at bats last season, he did manage a .252/.344/.442 batting line with 8 home runs and 25 RBI, while even playing four games at first base. His 112 OPS+ would have ranked fifth on the Rays last season, placing him just behind Matt Joyce.
Even though Thome is going to turn 43 years old during the 2013 season, he is still open to playing, and realizes that his best fit is to be a designated hitter. Naturally, Thome may be more inclined to play should the team have a chance at the playoffs, as he is still attempting to get that elusive World Series title. Given the Rays pitching, any upgrade in offense over the 2012 season may turn them into legitimate contenders for the postseason yet again. Thome may be that type of upgrade, should he remain healthy. Yet, even half a season from Thome may be better than the alternatives presently on the roster.
Jim Thome may not be the hitter he was in his prime, but he still has a bit of thunder in his bat. Thome may also come cheaply, as his last three contracts have been for a total of $5.75Million dollars. With that type of combination, he may be just what the Rays need in the lineup.