Twins designated hitter Jim Thome was claimed on waivers by the Indians and has accepted a trade to Cleveland.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jason Kubel was claimed by the Chicago White Sox, according to major-league sources.
A claim does not mean that a player will change teams. The Twins still can keep Kubel.
Thome spent 12 seasons with Cleveland from 1991 to 2002, hitting a team-record 334 homers and helping the Indians get to two World Series. He hit 52 in his final season before signing as a free agent with Philadelphia, a decision that angered many Indians fans who will have to welcome him back.
”He’s excited,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. ”He’s fired up to come back and join the team. I am hopeful and confident that fans will embrace him wearing an Indians uniform again. He’s not only an exceptional player but a person as well. Even if he wasn’t a person that hit 600 home runs, he’s just a great person.”
Thome holds a full no-trade clause and could have rejected any deal. He prefered the Phillies to the Indians, one source said, but it’s doubtful he could circumvent the waiver process to land with Philadelphia.
Kubel, meanwhile, is unlikely to be traded, sources said. The Twins likely would offer him arbitration in an attempt to re-sign him, and would want the equivalent of at least a high draft pick in return. The Twins must decide on Kubel by 1 p.m. ET Friday.
The Indians are six games out in the AL Central, the White Sox 6 1/2 out. Thome may fit well in Cleveland. The Indians are without designated hitter Travis Hafner, who is on the disabled list with a strained right foot.
”We will have to manage his playing time,” Antonetti said. ”He’s certainly not an everyday player at this point. We’ll work with Jim on this. We’d like to have him out there to impact the team as often as we can. Every game for the team is meaningful. We are trying to win as many games as possible and we’ll see where that takes us.”
The White Sox are missing right fielder Carlos Quentin, who is battling a shoulder problem.
The only way for Thome could have gotten to the Phillies would be if the Twins pulled him off trade waivers and placed him on release waivers. Thome could then have rejected every team that claimed him but the Phillies.
Such a ploy, however, would have required Thome to forfeit the rest of his salary, about $500,000. It also would have required the cooperation of the Twins, who would receive nothing in return for their popular slugger.
Rival clubs almost certainly would have protested such a manipulation of the waiver process. Thome, who recently hit his 600th home run, might even have suffered a hit to his image.
”There’s no question it’s a bittersweet deal,” Twins GM Bill Smith said. ”But there’s also no question this is the right thing to do for Jim Thome.
”He is all the superlative things that we knew we were getting when he came here two years ago. At this point in his Hall-of-Fame career, this is the right thing for him.”
Kubel, who is owed about $900,000, has talked with the Twins about a possible contract extension. Both he and Thome are eligible for free agency at the end of the season.