The first thing you need to understand is that the Major League Baseball commissioner's office wields a significant amount of behind-the-scenes power when it comes to the machinations of its 30 member clubs. Some clubs heed the office's wishes more than others, but there are plenty of ways in which Bud Selig can apply diplomatic pressure to team Presidents, from the scheduling of regular season games to the awarding of All-Star Games to the approving of trades that involve money changing hands.
The second thing you need to understand is that any attempt by Jim Thome and the Phillies to circumvent baseball's convoluted waiver process will be universally protested by the rest of the teams in the majors. And for good reason. The waiver process exists as it does for plenty of reasons, particularly to avoid late-season roster moves that could unfairly tip the balance of power in a postseason race.
Thome landing with the Phillies would not necessarily result in such a power shift. He would be used as a pinch-hitter and, if it gets to that point, a designated hitter in the World Series. Now, the Phillies would love to have him, and anybody who watched Thome's post-600-home-run praise of Charlie Manuel realizes that the feeling is likely mutual. Aside from the Phillies' need for a left-handed power bat on the bench, there a slew of sentimental factors in play. Thome wants a World Series ring. Thome and Manuel love each other like few player/coach tandems I have ever seen. Thome is often credited with giving the Phillies their first whiff of legitimacy by signing with them the year before Citizens Bank Park opened.
Paul Hagen did a nice job last week of detailing the steps that would have to occur for Thome to land in Philly. According to Fox Sports' tireless Ken Rosenthal, the Twins placed the slugger on trade waivers today. But the Phillies have almost no shot at claiming him, which is what they would need to do in order to work out a deal. They have the last crack at him in the National League, thanks to their best-in-the-majors record. And because Thome is owed about $600,000 for the rest of the season, he is sure to be claimed by a team in front of the Phillies. Even if that team does not need a player like Thome, they can place a claim on him in order to block the Phillies from having a shot at him.
Assuming that happens, the only way for the Phillies to sign Thome would be for the Twins to release him, which would then allow him to sign with the team of his choosing. For that to happen, both the Twins and the Phillies would risk the ire of the rest of the teams in the sport, who have already watched Ruben Amaro Jr. swing trade after trade over the last couple of years.
Can it happen? Sure. Will it? The chance is close to zero.
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