We're not exactly sure yet what role Jim Thome is going to wind up playing on the 2012 Phillies.
He'll be a potent power bat off the bench for sure and he might be an occasional first baseman, even though he's said in the past that he doesn't think playing the field is his best use. Should the Phils make it to the World Series, he'd certainly be their designated hitter. For now, though, the one thing that Thome is definitely doing for the Phillies is marketing.
Thome has been in contact with his former Twins teammate Michael Cuddyer about joining up again as members of the Phillies next season. Thome wouldn't say whether Cuddyer is as interested in joining the Phillies as they seem to be in having him come aboard, but their chances of landing him can't be hurt too much by Thome's lobbying.
It also can't hurt that the Phillies seem to be making Cuddyer a top priority right away. Buster Olney of ESPN reported over the weekend that the Phillies seem prepared to do whatever it takes to get Cuddyer on the team next season.
We discussed the reasons why Cuddyer would interest the Phillies last week, so we won't delve too deeply into that. His value comes from his ability to play all the corner infield and outfield positions while swinging a bat that would make him an upgrade on Raul Ibanez in the lineup. The fact that Cuddyer is 33 gives you some pause, especially if doing whatever it takes to land him means handing over a three-year deal but he's a clear fit for the Phillies needs in the lineup both before and after Ryan Howard is ready to play next season.
The only surprising thing about the Cuddyer pursuit is how quickly it got underway. Conventional wisdom held that Ryan Madson and Jimmy Rollins would be the first two orders of business for Philly this off-season, so all the Cuddyer buzz is nearly as out of left field as the lightning fast Thome signing. Unless, of course, the Cuddyer noise is meant to make Rollins and/or Madson think that the Phillies aren't going to wait forever while they shop themselves.
That's certainly possible, but a team with Cuddyer and without those players isn't much of an improvement on the current model. It would seem the moves are mutually exclusive and that Cuddyer is someone the Phillies want regardless of the outcome of other pursuits.