The Dodgers acquired Jim Thome at the postseason trade deadline last night, having already added the round mound of the infield, Ronnie Belliard, earlier in the day. Of course the Dodgers already had longtime Indians Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake on their roster. Thome and Ramirez played eight seasons together on the Indians, winning five straight division titles from 1995 through 1999. Blake and Belliard had a somewhat less celebrated run as Indians teammates from 2004 through 2006.
The trade represents a white flag for the White Sox, and no doubt it will draw comparisons to the infamous 1997 "white flag trade." The White Sox assumed an enormous risk when they claimed OF Alex Rios on waivers, accepting a fairly massive contractual burden in the process. They had already absorbed a huge cost on blood and treasure in acquiring weak-elbowed NL ace Jake Peavy ten days earlier. Chicago has won only six games in the three weeks since acquiring Rios, however, and they've now lost eight of their last nine games to fall under .500 and into third place, six games behind division leader Detroit, 2.5 behind Minnesota.
Even more remarkable, the White Sox are getting nothing for Thome. He's owed $2.4 million in salary for the rest of the season, and the Dodgers will pay some but not all of that. The White Sox receive back only minor league SS-2B Justin Fuller, who turned 26 a month ago and has yet to reach even the Double-A level. Fuller is not a prospect, not even in the sense that Josh Rodriguez is a prospect. He's Niuman Romero, an organizational soldier. August 2009 will be remembered by White Sox fans for decades to come as a franchise-shaping crash and burn.
The Dodgers say Thome will be used in a bench role and will not displace 1B starter James Loney. The role-change likely will cost him a few home runs in his climb into the Top 10 all-time home run list. With 564, Thome currently is 12th all-time, five behind #11 Rafael Palmeiro and nine behind #10 Harmon Killibrew. He is the Indians' all-time leader with 334 home runs, and he finishes his stint in Chicago with 134. He spent nearly four seasons with the White Sox after being traded by the Phillies following the emergence of Ryan Howard in 2005. Thome hasn't played even one inning at first base in more than two years, and he's played only four games in the field since June 2005.
The Dodgers are prohibitive favorites to make the postseason this year, which will make this only the second time Thome has appeared in the playoffs since his last Indians division winner in 2001. He returned to the postseason last year with the White Sox but managed only one single, one double and one walk in 17 PA.