The Toronto Blue Jays finalized an $18.12 million, two-year contract with Frank Thomas yesterday, then turned their attention to baseball's most prized commodity.
"I think pitching at this point is our No. 1 priority," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "It's going to be an interesting market."
Thomas gets a $9.12 million signing bonus that is payable in January, a $1 million salary next year, and $8 million in 2008. The deal includes a $10 million vesting option for 2009 that would become guaranteed if Thomas has 1,000 plate appearances in the next two seasons or 525 plate appearances in 2008.
Thomas, 38, led the Athletics with 39 homers and 114 RBIs this year, batting .270. Thomas has hit .305 with 487 homers and 1,579 RBIs in 17 major league seasons, 16 with the Chicago White Sox.
He stabilizes a designated hitter's spot that has been in flux since Shea Hillenbrand's acrimonious departure last summer.
"It was a chance to define the [DH] role with one guy, a pretty prolific guy too," Ricciardi said.
Thomas's addition likely means the end of Frank Catalanotto's time with the Blue Jays. "I don't think we've ruled him out but, obviously, it's going to be a lot harder to get playing time for him," Ricciardi said.
As for pitching, Toronto has held talks with free agent starters Randy Wolf, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, and Mark Mulder.
The Athletics, meanwhile, might be looking just across the bay to replace Thomas with another veteran presence.
A's general manager Billy Beane has had conversations with Barry Bonds's agent Jeff Borris about the 42-year-old slugger, who has played the past 14 seasons with San Francisco.
Bonds, who became a free agent after the season at the conclusion of a $90 million, five-year deal with the Giants, also is being pursued by San Francisco. The seven-time NL MVP has said he would like to play his 22d and perhaps final season for the Giants and finish his career in San Francisco.
Mueller, 35, hit .326 and had career-high totals of 171 hits, 19 homers, and 85 RBIs with the Red Sox in 2003, when he won the batting title. He was a member of Boston's 2004 World Series championship team.