The key word in this column's first sentence was 'current'. Once the team's weekend Interleague road series with the Toronto Blue Jays concludes, so too will Thome's role as its designated hitter.
Sometime during the past offseason, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., Manuel and numerous members of the Phillies staff must have had the same collective dream. After they woke up, everyone discussed how they had seen Thome playing first base while Ryan Howard was absent.
I think the Phillies literally told Thome to bring his old first baseman's glove to spring training because they were wondering if he could play more than just one game a week at Howard's spot. We have to wonder if they wanted to see if he could platoon at first base and bat against every right-handed pitcher from April through at least June?
If that suggestion seems like too much of a stretch, then all hardcore baseball fans should ask themselves why the Phillies signed Thome in the first place last November 4. Securing him that quickly indicates that they didn't want an American League team to get him before they did.
Sure, he could have retired. But, if an AL team would have offered a one-year deal, why would he have turned it down? The man loves baseball and so he likely would have continued his designated hitter role with a team other than the Minnesota Twins this season.
Everyone knows that it was Thome's personal connection with Manuel that caused him to immediately bite on the Phillies offer last fall.
If the Phillies somehow find themselves in the World Series this season, Thome will be their designated hitter.
Based upon injuries and circumstances, the organization took a low-cost 2012 flier on a player who helped them to rise from the dead when he chose to leave the Cleveland Indians and become a Phillie in December 2002.
The exhilarating memory of that Ed Wade initiated deal comes to mind whenever I see 'Big Jim' step to the plate. That specific move certified that the Phillies were actually on the rise way back when.
Now, over nine years later, Thome's fleeting fortunes seem like a wink at the five-year era that he sadly missed. It's disappointing to consider that this great guy might not be a part of the Phillies next playoff run.
If Manuel's squad doesn't go on a dynamic run during the next six weeks, a postseason push won't be in the making. But, another Philadelphia trade of Thome to the American League would then seem to make sense. If the Phillies find themselves out of the playoff race by mid-summer, why would they choose to keep a pinch-hitter with some value around?
Thome won't be able to yield an Aaron Rowand, Daniel Haigwood and Gio Gonzalez (who is now ironically with the Washington Nationals) from a team like the Chicago White Sox (as they did on November 25, 2005) in any modern day deal.
The future Hall of Famer can probably be exchanged straight up for a modest major leaguer, or a lower level minor league prospect. Thome's inclusion would also clearly enhance a package deal for any AL team that might want a member of baseball's exclusive 600 home run club in the middle of its lineup.
There also might be a National League team with legitimate 2012 playoff hopes that could want Thome as well. The Phillies were that team seven months ago.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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