The On Deck Circle

The unofficial home of Real Talk

Thomas Released, Conspiracies-a-Plenty

Posted by Blake Murphy on April 20, 2008

So I get home from an unreal UFC weekend in Montreal, unpack, get ready to blog about it, and what do I see? Frank Thomas has been released by the Jays! What the hell? I mean, I watched the Friday and Saturday games, and despite the benching, I definitely didn’t expect this. The UFC live account is coming, but this takes time-sensitive precedence. The move is, obviously, shrouded in conspiracy, so allow me to explore some of them for you here.

But first, one thing that is not left to interpretation – this move should have been made after Scott Rolen returned. In the line-up today, Rod Barajas is DHing and batting fifth and, because the team is facing lefty Nate Robertson, nobody outside of our top-4 hitters are even remotely intimidating. Barajas immediately becomes the worst #5 hitter in the league (save for whoever San Fran’s 5-hole guy is), making Marco Scutaro the #6 hitter with the least power…ever. The line-up has not been hitting the ball great and, while the team seems committed on the whole to a more patient approach at the plate, the lack of Thomas and Rolen leaves us with maybe the least power in the division, and definitely far less than Boston or New York. This isn’t a huge problem since Rolen should be back within 2-3 weeks (so I’m told), but for those few weeks we have two guys on our roster who are home run threats (Rios and Wells), three with 20-HR potential (Barajas, Overbay, Hill), and four who can hardly hit the ball out of the infield. We needed Thomas in the short-term, even if he wasn’t hitting the ball great, because he adds something to the line-up that replacement players can’t – protection for Rios and Vernon. This issue will be solved when Rolen returns, when Overbay starts hitting, or when Thomas’ replacement is found, but for now the line-up is in dire straits.

That said, there are three conspiracies that arise from this move, and allow me to start the widespread belief in all of them right here, right now.

Conspiracy #1 – Obvious Financial Reasons
Umm, if Thomas got 300 more plate appearances this year, the team would have to accept the vesting $10M option for next season, a figure that is probably too much for a guy who just cannot hit in April (or May). Smart business move, indeed. Sure, he is good for 25-80-.275 almost regardless, but those are not numbers befitting a $10M 41-year old who doesn’t play the field. Thomas suspected this was the reason behind some of his benching recently, as did I, and it only makes sense that the team just release him outright if he was going to cause clubhouse trouble (and because with less plate appearances, it would take him even longer to round into mid-season form). Luckily for Thomas, the Jays have to pick up what’s left on his contract for this year and he’s now free to play elsewhere and earn his keep for 2009. He’ll catch on, because he’s The Big Hurt and he can still rake, and he’s less of a distraction than another DH free agent (see Conspiracy #3). I hate to see Thomas go because he’s one of my all time favorite players, but it could be a good thing in the long run since this move opens up a roster spot…

Conspiracy #2 – Adam Lind is Ready
This sprouted up a bit when Reed Johnson was cut, though it was unfounded since the team still had two left fielders. But with Stairs looking shaky in the field and being better suited for the DH role, and with Adam Lind hitting a ludicrous .360 at Triple-A Syracuse, it’s now a genuine possibility. Lind proved last season that he can play at least adequate left field, and we know he can hit from his career .318 minor league batting average and his .367 average with the Jays in September of 2006. Lind also walks a decent amount and has 20-HR potential, including 3 already with 13 RBI in just 50 at-bats at Syracuse. Lind is the future in either left or at the DH spot for the Jays (depending on how Travis Snider develops as a fielder), and the plan was to give him 2008 to hone his game with 500 minor league at-bats. That plan may have changed with 400+ at-bats available with the big league club and his impressive start to the year. That roster spot created by Thomas is open as of this writing, possibly because Lind was in uniform against Lehigh Valley when the announcement was being made. We’ll probably know by tonight if Lind is the choice, or…

Conspiracy #3 – Barry Bonds
Yes, I’m going to start the rumor here. Barry Bonds is a Moneyball type of player, believe it or not, since he hits for incredible power and walks a ludicrous amount. He will also come relatively on the cheap if he were to be signed at this point, since there appear to be no other suitors. Is Bonds an upgrade over Thomas if acquired at the same price? I’d say yes, since he is more consistent, is a left-handed bat, and walks an unbelievable amount. This is the man, don’t forget, who has the fourth highest OPS of all time and the most walks ever, by far. He’s also hit 54 home runs over the past two seasons in just 707 at-bats, while still maintaining a nearly .500 OBP as a 43-year old. He would be a good fit in the Toronto line-up since he is so patient, is a lefty, and hits for serious power, three things the line-up sorely needs. Additionally, his wear-and-tear concerns will be essentially removed by becoming a designated hitter, and Matt Stairs is a serviceable back-up at that position. Will Bonds create too much buzz and controversy? It’s possible, but for a team that’s usually shrouded in silence and anonymity, maybe that’s a good thing. If Bonds comes at the same price as Thomas, as big a Lind supporter as I am, you can count me on board.

16 Responses to “Thomas Released, Conspiracies-a-Plenty”

  1. Blake Murphy Says:

    I want to readily admit already that that was a bit rushed and not in a great amount of detail, but I just got home and wrote that. You can expect a little more depth (can the Jays afford Bonds? would he sign here?) in my series wrap tomorrow, plus the UFC weekend review and maybe even that lost Mailbag idea.

  2. Erik Says:

    Conspiracy #4 - Frank Thomas is old and couldn’t catch up to a league average fastball in a fastball count.

    Of the one’s listed, I think it’s the money issue that is most likely.

  3. Blake Murphy Says:

    Oh yah, money is obviously why, as is your #4 (for April/May). 1, 2, and 3 are not mutually exclusive, though you’d think either 2 or 3 HAS to be true (unless they keep Inglett up as the 4th OF and have Stairs DH and Stewart in LF full time…)

  4. The Anti-Virus Says:

    I don’t like Barry Bonds for a number of obvious reasons but there is a part of me that would love to see him in T.O…. It could definitely be a circus but an entertaining one for sure.

  5. Blake Murphy Says:

    Big Update: What I first thought was a sign that Lind was about to be called up turns out to be a reason he may not be at all. I saw Lind was pulled from the Syracuse line-up today, but it turns out he has a sore neck and missed all three games this weekend. Not sure what this means in the grand scheme of things, if it’s minor or what, but he is seriously stroking the ball and makes sense.

    Erik—fantasy implications? Do I drop Thomas??

  6. Blake Murphy Says:

    Jesus Christ, now is reporting the Jays plan on using Barajas at DH and calling up Robinson Diaz to split time behind the plate. Does anyone ACTUALLY know what’s going on here? Shit, it’s not even a business day!

    My money is going on Lind/Stewart/Stairs all sharing LF/DH for the foreseeable future, because (I think?) this is what makes the most sense. I think. My head hurts.

  7. khandor Says:

    As I told you a while back … the Jays line-up was/is in desperate NEED of another Left-handed stick, preferrably with some pop.


    Think I mentioned that to you, at the time, as well.


  8. Martin Says:

    Great move, and good eye on picking up the possible Bonds connection. I didn’t even think of that.

    Given that JP and Gibby would likely get fired if the Jays fail to at least get to 90 wins this year, we have no time to wait for Thomas to get into his rhythm by July. He’s a selfish piece of shit who whines too much. Team-first is a concept he has failed to understand throughout his career.

  9. Blake Murphy Says:

    Khandor, yes, you were correct. I still believe that you don’t NEED more lefties but given a choice, why not? As for your suggestion of Barry By the Bay, at the time, we had Hurt ;). But yes, good lookin’ out playboi.

  10. Matt Murphy Says:

    Ok, lets see here. I don’t know what’s going on with the Jays right now, I don’t think anyone does. It seems to me that Bonds would bring too much controversy to the Jays organization.

    If Lind is healthy than that seems like it would be the best bet for TO. He has that left-handed bat that everyone knows we so desperately need. For a young guy with huge potential he has a good enough batting average in the MLB (.238)in 89 games over the ‘07 season.

    Conspieracy #2 is the most likely way to fill that roster spot in my opinion. It offers young talen with potential to get better and a left hander in the rotation with decent fielding skills.

  11. Blake Murphy Says:

    And now we give Wells a fucking routine day off, too? Are we trying to lose ballgames? We only have ONE guy in the lineup today who is even a remote power threat. One. Out of nine.

  12. khandor Says:

    This entire “Moneyball” nonsense is no way to run a 1st-tier baseball operation that is trying to win a World Series, down-the-road.

    It’s an effective way for a small-mid-sized market team to stay ‘competitive’ from year-to-year with the Big Boys, on a reasonable ‘budget’, but it’s going to come up short almost every time when it comes to winning meaningful games in September & October.

  13. Blake Murphy Says:

    Isn’t that the Blue Jay Way?

  14. Blake Murphy Says:

    (the point was that Ricciardi is a Moneyball disciple and would like him for that reason, not a judgment on its legitimacy)

  15. Cone Says:

    feel free to check out some players opinions on Bonds.

    Accardo seems as though he wouldn’t mind it….

  16. khandor Says:

    JP is a poor GM and will not succeed in building a championship team in Toronto.

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