High-ranking club officials have revealed to USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale that the White Sox have informed the Phillies that they want first baseman Jim Thome.
"And, yes, the Phillies replied, Thome is very much available. Trading Thome would clear room for Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard.
The Phillies have several suitors for Thome, but with $43.5 remaining in his contract, they will likely have to swallow nearly half of his salary. The Phillies also realize that their offseason options could be severely limited by Thome, who has a no-trade clause.
And guess where he'd love to play next year? On the South Side of Chicago.
The White Sox believe that Thome can help bring them another World Series championship. He not only provides insurance in case free agent first baseman Paul Konerko flees for a potential five-year, $65 million contract offer from the Angels, but he becomes the finest DH in the game if Konerko returns.
White Sox GM Kenny Williams refused to confirm or deny his team's interest in Thome, but Williams vows the White Sox will be aggressive this offseason."
Does this put the Twins in play? Does it wake up the Tigers? I see a number of glaring holes in free agency, the biggest being starting pitching and power. I have a feeling Thome will be easier to move than originally thought, especially to a team in the AL Central.
Thanks to alert reader MPN for the heads up on this story. For more from the hot stove, check out MPN's latest post in the comments thread below.
Thome in Clearwater
In related news, Todd Zoleck and Jim Salisbury of the Inquirer reported this morning that Thome is in Clearwater, Fla. on the road to recovery following elbow surgery and back problems.
Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper told assistant GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. that Thome is "in the best shape he's ever seen him as an athlete."
In addition, Zolecki writes that talks between the Phillies and free agent closer Billy Wagner are progressing and a new offer is expected.
There isn't much to take away from this story, other than Wagner is excited by some of the plans GM Pat Gillick has for the offseason.
"I got a really good vibe from him," Wagner told the Inquirer. "Me and my agent were talking afterward, and we were really upbeat about the meeting. I think he's got a game plan. I think he's wanting to do some great things. I'm excited and pumped about that.
"I like how Pat described the direction he wanted to go in. He wants to build a championship team. Not just for one year, but for many years."
Questions answered on BA chat session
Will Kimmey of Baseball America responded to two of my questions during Monday's Phillies chat session, discussing the magazine's selections for the top 10 prospects.
J. Weitzel from Reading, Pa. asks:
Q: I wasn't expecting to see Carlos Ruiz on that list due to his age (27 next season), but this is a question in regards to your best tools issue. Ruiz earned best defensive catcher in the International League, even though he spent much of the time as a DH. Are the Phils still excited about his defense, or has he taken a step back?
A: He's a solid average defender with a good arm, feet and hands.
J. Weitzel from Reading, Pa. asks:
Q: I liked the comment you stated earlier: "So the system isn't in great shape, but the big club is winning, and is largely homegrown. I'm sure there are plenty of clubs that would trade a strong system for what the Phils have at the major league level." I agree with that, but it would be nice to have just a few more chips they can throw around in a trade. Which players do you think Gillick will shop? I see a lot of slashing outfielders, including Chris Roberson, who is not in the Top 10.
A: I'm a sucker for praise. I think any player on this list is fair game outside of Hamels, Bourn and Golson. The problem comes in that most trades that return subtantial value are centered around power arms. Remember Wagner for Duckworth, Asacio and Buchholz? Those types in lower levels include names such as Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Kendrick and Maximino De la Cruz. You'd probably deal Mathieson to get Javy Vazquez. Redundant players such as Victorino and Roberson would be nice to trade, but how much would they really return? Looks like Jim Thome also exists as a mighty trading chip.