There’s a statue of Jim Thome being built outside the Indians’ ballpark, but the 42-year-old slugger is still trying to avoid retirement despite an apparent lack of interest from all 30 teams.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is one of Thome’s closest friends and told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
He still thinks he can play. He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He’s kind of having a hard time adjusting.
Based on his performance last season Thome could still add some value to a team as a part-time designated hitter and bench bat, but roster spots for that type of role are awfully limited and he’s been unsuccessfully looking for a gig for months now. Part of the problem is that Thome reportedly wants a big-league contract rather than working his way back to the majors on a minor-league deal, but whatever the case there’s been essentially zero rumblings of him drawing interest.
The Dodgers have pulled off their first blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Charlie Culberson, Adrian Gonzalez and cash considerations to the Braves for Matt Kemp, per announcements from both teams. The Braves are set to designate Gonzalez for assignment on Monday, making him a free agent.
Kemp, 33, had a down year with the Braves in 2017, hitting a career-low -0.5 fWAR in 115 games with the club. At the plate, he slashed a modest .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs and a .781 OPS through 467 plate appearances, but was hampered by a nagging left hamstring strain through most of the season. This will be his 10th campaign with the Dodgers.
Whether or not Kemp can rebound during his second stint in Los Angeles is almost beside the point, however. The deal is effectively a salary dump to end all salary dumps. Offloading multiple one-year contracts for McCarthy, Kazmir and Gonzalez should bring the Dodgers back under the $197 million luxury tax threshold and position them to make a run at some of the big fish in next year’s free agent pool. It’s also worth noting that they may not keep Kemp around for long — per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the club appears as likely to flip the veteran outfielder as they are to use him. As for the Braves, they not only rid themselves of the $43 million due Kemp through 2020, but added some rotation and infield depth with McCarthy and Culberson and can now give top prospect Ronald Acuna a legitimate tryout in left field.