Mailbag: Why is Thomas gone?
Reporter Jordan Bastian answers Jays fans' questions
Help me make some sense of the Jays releasing Frank Thomas. I understand that he was off to a slow start, but the guy had done that his entire career. Thomas has postseason experience and obviously can get the job done.
-- Benson T., Syracuse, N.Y.
Thomas has been described as a "notoriously slow starter," but the fact is that his poor showings have been a more recent trend -- not a trait of his entire career. Prior to 2001, Thomas actually had a pretty strong reputation for quality performances in April, but I digress ...
The fact of the matter is that the Blue Jays couldn't afford to provide Thomas with a few months to once again work out the kinks in his swing. This is an important season for Toronto, which is intent on competing for a spot in the playoffs. The Jays can ill afford to fall too far behind in the American League East race early on.
So, with Thomas mired in another early-season slump -- an unfortunate trend over the past few seasons -- the Blue Jays had to make a decision. In an effort to aid a struggling offense, the club decided to limit Thomas' playing time in order to provide at-bats for the players who were performing better.
Naturally, Thomas wasn't happy with a diminished role, especially when his only contribution is serving as a designated hitter. Maybe he would've garnered a few starts per week, but he was essentially being asked to be an $8 million pinch-hitter. As any player might, Thomas vented frustration over the situation.
There were only going to be two outcomes: Either Thomas would agree to sit on the bench or Toronto would have to rid itself of the player. With neither side happy with the way things were playing out, they agreed that parting ways provided the best solution. Thomas can now look for work elsewhere, and the Jays can retool their lineup.
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi is adamant that Thomas' contract didn't play a role in releasing the potential Hall of Famer, but it's hard to ignore that side of the situation. Toronto is now off the hook when it comes to the $10 million salary that Thomas would've been owed in 2009 had he reached 304 more plate appearances this season.
With the release of Thomas, is it possible that the Jays will go after someone to replace him from outside the organization? Barry Bonds would be a good fit as a DH, but it seems unlikely that the Jays would be interested in Bonds, considering everything else that comes with him.
-- Paul M., Peterborough, Ontario
After releasing Thomas, Ricciardi was quick to say that the Blue Jays did not intend on looking outside the organization for a replacement. For now, Toronto will hand the DH duties primarily to Matt Stairs and backup catcher Rod Barajas. The Jays called up prospect Robinzon Diaz on Sunday to have an extra catcher on hand.
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I also think it's highly doubtful, and I'm being generous with the wording here, that the Blue Jays would pursue Bonds. It seems improbable to think that Toronto would trade one aging DH for another -- let alone one who does come with so much baggage. Also, keep in mind that the Jays still have to pay Thomas' salary this year.
What happened to Adam Lind? After last season, I expected him to make the 25-man roster. Is there any chance that he gets called up any time soon?
-- Taylor D., Barrington, Nova Scotia
Lind probably would've been summoned from Triple-A Syracuse after Thomas' dismissal if the 24-year-old outfielder wasn't nursing a stiff neck. As soon as Lind is feeling better, expect him to be up with the Blue Jays. Lind, who is batting .360 through 14 games at Triple-A, can take over in left field and add a left-handed bat to the lineup.
What is the batting order going to look like when Scott Rolen comes off the DL?
-- Mickey, Toronto
Jays manager John Gibbons has liked what he's seen from the Nos. 1-4 spots, which are currently occupied by David Eckstein, Aaron Hill, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, respectively. That being the case, Rolen could slide into the fifth spot now that Thomas is no longer in the mix. If the Jays want to split up all their right-handed hitters, Rolen could bat sixth, with Stairs in the No. 5 hole.
Will you please explain the club options that belong to the Blue Jays with respect to Hill's contract? Does the agreement he signed with the Jays prevent him from going to salary arbitration throughout the life of the agreement?
-- David L., Toronto
Hill no longer has to worry about arbitration. He's scheduled to make $410,000 this year, $2.59 million in 2009, $4 million in '10 and $5 million in '11. The club options included in his contract that cover the 2012-14 seasons come into play during the '11 season -- Hill's final year before possibly becoming eligible for free agency.
By Opening Day 2011, the Jays must decide whether they want to pick up a three-year option worth $26 million. Should Toronto decide against doing that, the club has until 10 days following the '11 World Series to go one of three routes. At that point, the Jays could either decline to renew Hill's contract or elect to exercise a one-year option worth $8 million or a two-year option worth $16 million.
When the Jays released Reed Johnson, they only had to pay him roughly $500,000 when his contract was worth more than $3 million. I thought baseball contracts were guaranteed, so why did they not have to pay the full amount?
-- Michael B., Thornhill, Ontario
In Johnson's case, he was still in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the Blue Jays gave him his unconditional release before the season began. Under those conditions, Toronto wasn't required to pay Johnson his entire $3.275 million salary. Instead, the Jays were required to provide one-sixth of that amount or $546,000.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.