The Phillies have kicked off the Hot Stove season by reuniting with Gentleman Jim.
Todd Zolecki of Phillies.com reports that Jim Thome is headed back to Philadelphia on a one-year pact, pending a physical, marking another winter where Ruben Amaro and the Phils bulster the bench very early in the off-season. Thome finished last season where it all began, in Cleveland, after beginning the year with Minnesota. In total, Gentleman Jim hit .256/.361/.477 with 15 home runs in 324 plate appearances, numbers that largely eclipsed what the Phillies came to expect from their bench (with the exception of John Mayberry). The move also signals the end of Ross Gload's tenure as the club's primary pinch hitter.
Thome was linked to the Phils in several trade deadline rumors, but he was unable to pass through waivers and reach Philadelphia. He sits at eighth place on the all-time homer list with 604. Zolecki suggests this is a low-cost signing with the lure of a title driving Thome's decision to remain in baseball.
Thome spent three seasons with the Phillies between 2003-05 and opened the era of big offense in Philadelphia, which the team is now trying to recapture. He was traded to the White Sox in the 2005-06 offseason in a move that brought Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia and cleared room for Ryan Howard. Thome's last season with the Phillies also marked the last time he saw regular action at first base, just in case you were wondering.
Update: CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury reports the Phillies are in "serious" pursuit of Thome's Twins teammate Michael Cuddyer, a 32-year-old free agent who can play the outfield corners and can handle spot action at first and third. Cuddyer posted an .805 OPS with 20 home runs and was named to the All-Star Game.