The 39-year old designed hitter has been released by the Blue Jays, one day after being benched as the teams’ starting designated hitter.
Thomas was batting .167 in 16 games, with three homers and 11 RBI this season.
When told of his benching yesterday, the Big Hurt said it was an attempt by the club to limit his at bats in order to make sure he didn’t get the 304 plate appearances required to guarantee his $10-million option for next season.
On Saturday, general manager J.P. Ricciardi denied that Thomas’ contract factored into the decision to bench the 19-year veteran.
“I think the decision is the manager’s based on what he thinks is best for the team,” said Ricciardi. “As a team we’re struggling offensively and I just think Gibby is trying to spark our offense a little bit.
“A lot of guys are struggling, I don’t think (Thomas) is alone. I think at this point you try and do what you can do to help the club and Gibby’s trying to put our best possible lineup on the field.”
With Thomas being released, the Jays could recall prospect Adam Lind, who is currently hitting .360 with 3 home runs in 14 games at Triple-A.
There’s an old saying that it’s easier to fire a manager because you can’t fire 25 players. Ricciardi, who may or may not have tied his fortunes to Gibbons, could well prove that you can fire 25 players. Shea Hillenbrand, Ted Lilly (ok, not actually fired), Thomas…not a bad start, really. Granted the circumstances were different in each instance, but there is a pattern of players who publicly bitch about the organization being rendered non-persons.
(addendum : I actually heard another club’s broadcaster explain later in the day that the removal of Thomas was totally in character, given Toronto’s commitment to “younger players”. Which is a very interesting way of rationalizing all those at bats going to Matt Stairs.)