The Orioles acquired legendary slugger Jim Thome from the Phillies yesterday for a couple of minor league prospects.
My first thought was, "Can he pitch?"
There are lots of ramifications to this trade so let's take them one at a time.
First, let's look at who the Orioles acquired. Unlike the Vladimir Guerrero debacle of 2011, Thome's skills include the ability to get on base and his ISO is still top notch. He's still a legitimate power threat at the plate and a well above average hitter overall. His addition make the Oriole lineup better, you can argue about how much better but there is little doubt that he helps the offense.
Second, Dan Duquette traded away two legitimate prospects to acquire Thome for half a season. Say what you will about the Taylor Teagarden trade but RHP Randy Henry and SS Greg Miclat were not considered top prospects at the time of that trade. In the Oriole farm system, RHP Kyle Simon and C Gabriel Lindo are ranked #18 and #21 respectively by Baseball America. They are at the lowest levels of the organization but these are not spare parts; Simon is a legitimate starting pitcher prospect and Lino is at the very least a great defensive catching prospect. It's a high price to pay for three months of Jim Thome.
Thirdly, how is this going to affect the configuration of the existing lineup? If today's lineup is any indication, Mark Reynolds may have a hard time getting off the bench. Thome will be exclusively a DH which removes a lot of flexibility that Buck Showalter had when filling out his lineup card. With Reynolds utterly unable to play third base, there is now a 3-man rotation of Reynolds, Thome and Chris Davis competing for at bats among DH and first base. And you have to include Wilson Betemit in that mix too. With Reynolds unable to find his power stroke at the mid-point of 2012, he may find playing time sparse. Even today, Showalter is more comfortable putting Davis in right field than starting Reynolds at first. Reynolds has not played third base since early May, look for Robert Andino and Ryan Flaherty to handle most of that duty.
Lastly, to what end have the Orioles added Thome? What's the end game here? Does Dan Duquette believe that Baltimore has a shot to make the playoffs? With this pitching staff? He must or he would not part with two prospects as highly though of as Simon and Lino are. I don't share that belief. I have said often this season that this team could be the one that breaks the 14-season losing streak but I never thought they would make the postseason. But Duquette is signalling that this team will be buyers at the trading deadline.
I don't get it. Maybe Duquette is smelling blood int he water with the massive injuries to the Blue Jay rotation and the Yankee rotation, the general ineffectiveness of the Rays offense and the myriad of issues facing the Red Sox.
But I don't think this team has enough to make the postseason and it's troubling that Duquette does. I wonder what other decisions he'll make in that belief and what the long-term impacts are of those moves.