Jim Thome Traded to the Baltimore Orioles: Rate That Trade

Sunday July 1st, 2012

Jonathan Hacohen:  As part of our regular features here on MLB reports, we have a dedicated page to baseball trades. It is not a streaming trade tracker. Rather, it is a highlight of the key baseball trades that take place during the year. We look at the main participants, what was the deal, each team’s logic and deliver a verdict.  We call it “Rate That Trade“. Please feel free to bookmark it and check back regularly. If you love baseball deals as much as we do, then we know that you will have your opinion on each respective baseball swap. Leave your comments, send us an e-mail, keep in touch. We love debating baseball deals almost as much as we love reporting and analyzing them.

The big swap on the last day of June went down as follows:

The Philadelphia Phillies trade Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles, in exchange for two minor leagues, catcher Gabriel Lino and Pitcher Kyle Simon

Orioles Logic:  This deal makes sense on so many levels for Baltimore. This team spent a great deal of time in first place already this year. Currently in 2nd place, the Orioles are 5 games behind the 1st place Yankees. But watch out, Tampa Bay and Boston are only 1.5 games behind Baltimore for 2nd place. This team needs a push to stay in content. Enter Jim Thome. The 41-year old Thome still carries a big home run bat. He is a solid veteran presence on a young team still trying to find itself. Mark Reynolds and Wilson Betemit simply won’t cut it anymore at DH. Chris Davis is likely to take over as the full-time first baseman. While he is not considered a top defensive player, he has shown enough this year offensively to warrant a permanent lineup position. Thome changes the whole complexion of the lineup. Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis (when he returns), Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy and Davis are nice weapons on their own. But the team needs a definite clean-up hitter. That’s Thome. While he can’t play every day, he will play enough to make a difference. The pressure will be off Jones to be the big bopper. Thome is also patient, something the young Orioles hitters would be well served to learn.

Overall, this is a little risk and high reward move for Baltimore. The lineup gets a slugger it needs. The young hitters get protection, a mentor and leader. The cost? Two young players that are so behind the majors that they were worth sacrificing. Thome may be a 3-4 month rental player. But for a city that is starting to love its team again, Orioles management needed to show that it was serious. Time to flex its teeth. The longer Duquette would have waited, the more likely that Thome would not have been available. Sometimes you need to shop early to get the best available parts for your team. The Orioles did just that on Saturday.

Phillies Logic: An interesting move at an interesting time. Quite frankly, I never really understood the acquisition of Thome in the first place. Yes, it was a nice homecoming. And yes, he loves the City of Brotherly Love. But with Howard down for at least half a year, Thome was never going to be a temporary filler. That honor fell to Ty Wigginton. So Thome became a pinch-hitter and temporary DH during interleague play. The team that maybe was thinking in a delusional state that Thome could play regularly in the field, came back to reality. It has been 7 years since Jim Thome played any kind of innings out on the field. The choices were to let him rot on the bench, or get him a good DH job and let him pad his hall-of-fame numbers before calling it a career. Chase Utley was back, with Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay due back soon as well. Cliff Lee will get hot. The Phillies, 10 games back of the Nationals, are a 2 week hot streak away from contention. Plus there will be two Wild Cards this year. So the Phillies don’t yet know their identity. They will know by the end of July. But in the meantime, there was no room in the inn for Jim Thome. Ruben Amaro did the classy move and trade his veteran slugger to a prime destination, where he will have regular playing time and contend at the same time.

For a team that has been very good at depleting its farm system, this trade allows for two good bodies to join the Phillies organization.  Simon will be 22 come August, and was a 4th round pick for the Orioles in 2011. A big boy at 6’5″ and 225 lbs, he certainly has the build of a strong possible MLB prospect. The kid has played High-A ball all season. In 14 starts, he has a 3.96 ERA and 1.472 WHIP. He hasn’t shown to be a strong strikeout pitcher yet. But remember, he is young and this is first full professional season. But as they say in baseball: “you can’t teach size”. This kid has size to spare, so I can see Simon getting his shot one day, if he stays healthy and improves. 6’5″ pitchers tend to linger that way. The other piece is another big boy, Gabriel Lino. A 6’3″ catcher, at 19 years of age is still very young and far away from the majors. Before this year he showed a fairly good eye, including 28/21 walks to strikeouts in the Dominican Summer League. This year, his first season in A-ball, the numbers have not been as impressive. .218 AVG, .622 OPS, 4 home runs in 56 games, but a 16/64 walks to strikeout display. Like Simon, Lino is very young and far away. The measure of the value of these kids won’t be known for some time, likely 5 years. At that point, they will either be members of the Phillies, trade bait or distant memories. Prospects have a way of turning into suspects in a hurry in this game.

The Verdict: One of those rare win-win situations. The Orioles get the strong home run bat they craved for their lineup and the Phillies add two good lower level prospects while moving a piece that was not going to be used. If the Phillies had held out, maybe they could have received better prospects. But it was not worth waiting and taking a risk. If Thome wasn’t going to play (which he wasn’t), his trade value would have decreased by the day. Kevin Youkilis anyone? At best, the O’s ride Thome to the playoffs and work towards solidifying their organization which was in shambles for years. At worst? The O’s end up levelling off, but play decent ball and continue to get their fans excited. The odds say that the Phillies will likely see little to no value from these prospects, as the odds are against players at this level from blossoming. But you never know- the team could catch lightning in a bottle with one or both. I like the move from both ends and applaud both teams. It may not be the sexiest verdict, but it is what it is at the end of the day.


 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

Posted on July 1, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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