Jim Thome is a Phillie again.
Could Michael Cuddyer be next?
The Phillies on Saturday signed Thome to a one-year deal that according a source is worth 1.25 million. Thome, 41, hit 96 of his career 604 homers with the Phillies from 2003 to 2005 and will give the team some much-needed left-handed pop off the bench.
Were very happy to be able to bring Jim back to Philadelphia at this point in his career, general manager Ruben Amaro said in a statement released by the team. He will be an option for Charlie Manuel to use off the bench each night and brings a great attitude to the ballpark every day.
Thome finished the 2011 season with the Cleveland Indians. He spent most of the last two seasons with the Minnesota Twins and there are strong indications that the Phillies would like to reunite him with one of his former Minnesota teammates.
According to sources, the Phillies are in serious pursuit of free-agent Michael Cuddyer, who has spent his entire career with the Twins. Cuddyer is a right-handed hitter, who has averaged 22 homers and 82 RBIs the last three seasons. He is also versatile and can play both corner outfield spots as well as first base and third base.
The Phils are in need of depth at first base and in leftfield. First baseman Ryan Howard, recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, is expected to open the season on the disabled list. Its possible the Phils could use leftfielder John Mayberry Jr. at first while Howard mends. If that happens, Cuddyer would be valuable in left field if the Phils can sign him. Cuddyer is considered a high-character, team-first guy and is being pursued by a number of teams. He and Thome are good friends so signing Thome could help the Phils in their quest to land Cuddyer.
Thome played first base for the Phillies during his time with the club, but has played only 28 innings at the position since 2005. He will bring a first basemans mitt to spring training, but his only work at the position will likely come in emergency situations.
Thome has long wanted to finish his career with the Phillies and he will get his wish. The Phillies tried to trade for him in August, but he was first claimed on waivers by Cleveland and the Twins swung a deal with that club. In Philadelphia, Thome will be reunited with manager Charlie Manuel.
Everyone knows my relationship with Jimmy, Manuel said. But hes not here because of that. Hes here to contribute to our team in a positive way, both on and off the field.
The bond between the two men goes back to the early 1990s when Thome played for Manuel in Clevelands minor-league system. Manuel became Thomes personal hitting guru and eventually managed him in the majors with the Indians and in 2005 with the Phillies. Thome was hurt much of that season and was eventually traded to the White Sox when Howard burst into the majors.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com.