Frank Thomas Update

About two months ago, I was pretty hard on the Toronto Blue Jays for dumping Frank Thomas. He had gotten off to a slow start and the Jays benched him, then ultimately granted his release. Based on 72 plate appearances the Jays felt that Thomas was taking up a roster spot that could be better-used by someone else. Here is what I had to say about the situation.

One lesson from principles of microeconomics is that just because you are earning a loss doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to shut down production. As long as the revenues from production exceed the variable costs, you make money to cover a portion of your fixed sunk costs by continuing to operate. Shutting down increases your losses. If a player is producing more on the field than he costs to keep on the roster, then you should keep him on the roster. The Jays have just gone from a situation where they were getting Matt Stairs and Frank Thomas for $9 million (prorated salaries for the remainder of 2008 of $7 million and $2 million) to having only Matt Stairs for that same expenditure. I don’t see how this is an improvement.

This situation differs from the Russ Ortiz situation in 2006 with Arizona (Keith Law offers a nice summary). Ortiz was in the second year of a four-year, $33-million deal. In 2005 and 2006 he was worse than the options available to the team, and therefore it made sense to send Ortiz on his way. Though the Diamondbacks are still paying off the deal, Ortiz isn’t good enough to pitch on a major-league roster. Had Arizona continued to employ his services he would have made the team worse; therefore, cutting Ortiz was the right move. In Thomas’s case, several teams are interested in acquiring his services because he is better than available alternatives.

And what has transpired since the deal? He’s posted a .319/.417/.516 line which translates to an OPS+ for the year of 125–exactly what it was in 2007. Even if he had been much worse than this, it was a bad move for the Jays. Now the A’s are getting Thomas on the Jays’ dime. This is the most obvious GM blunder that I have seen in some time.

10 Responses “Frank Thomas Update”

  1. Trevor says:

    You obviously don’t follow the Jays closely; this was just one mistake, in a string of baffling decisions that JP has made in his time with Toronto. To say the fanbase is sick of his nonsense is an understatement.

  2. JC says:

    I can understand your frustration Trevor.

  3. Bob Tufts says:

    Good analysis, JC!

    I have been recently reading more articles on your site, as I have been looking for material like this ever since Doug Pappas died.

    As a former economics major anf finance MBA, I await your pices on the price elasticity of supply and demand on the construction of new but smaller stadia in New York and elsewhere.

  4. CJ44 says:

    I even think JP has gotten off easy from the Toronto media for the extent of this insanity. It is surely one of his many blunders though. Hopefully they will drop the guillotine on him and Gibbons midseason instead of drag out the whole thing for 4 more months….

  5. dlf says:

    Now the A’s are getting Thomas on the Jays’ dime

    They haven’t for three weeks. Big Frank has been on the DL since late May with pain in his right quad. I haven’t heard an update on anticipated return, but being on the Jays IR instead of the A’s IR isn’t likely to vault Toronto to the first division.

  6. Josh says:

    So excuse me if this is a dumb question but it’s something I’ve been trying to figure out since Thomas was released.

    How does the salary work? I know the Jays are on the hook but how does resigning with another team work? I’ve read several blogs/sites about the situation and from time to time they hint that Thomas only gets what his original contract was. Do the Jays get a small subsidy in the amount the A’s are paying him (league min)? Or does Thomas get everything the Jays owed him plus the pro-rated league min from the A’s?

  7. Jonny Schuerholz says:

    Josh, the A’s only have to pay Thomas the pro-rated league minimum. Ricciardi’s on the hook for the original value of the contract, minus the pro-rated minimum that Beane is paying. So Thomas doesn’t get paid any differently as a result of changing teams, but the funds are (mostly) coming from his old employer.

    Sort of like how Hampton used to be getting paid by Colorado/Florida but played for us…oh wait, he’s hasn’t really been playing for us, has he…oops

  8. Ken Houghton says:

    The Jays get the “small subsidy.” They save the pro-rated league minimum, including during this time on the DL.

    If this goes on much further, it’s a bad deal for both teams. But the only loss to the A’s is monetary.

  9. Eric Stephen says:

    Part of the reasoning from the Jays standpoint — and I don’t think it was a good decision by them — was that Thomas needed only 376 PA in 2008 to guarantee a vesting $10m option for 2009. So that has to be factored in the cost-benefit analysis.

  10. Josh says:

    I know that I am biased, but don’t forget about Jim Edmonds. His OPS+ is 132 (which is consistent with his career numbers) since joining the Cubs on the Padres dime.