A hidden dent in Frank Thomas’s value?

No team has made an offer at any price at any time. That’s a simple fact. At this point in time, no club has even offered the minimum salary. And even though the minimum salary wouldn’t be a bona fide offer for a player of his stature, it’s beyond comprehension that no team (has made) such an offer.

—Jeff Borris, agent for Barry Bonds

It’s extremely suspicious that a player of this caliber has yet to be made an offer.

—Jeff Borris, agent for Barry Bonds

Bonds’ people are closely monitoring the case of Frank Thomas, a new free agent after the Blue Jays released him last week, to see whether it can help them advance a collusion case.

—Jon Heyman, Sports Illustrated

Please take note that what I am about to say is 100 percent speculation and guesswork on my part. I have no sources or evidence to back this up, but when valuing players in fantasy, as I’ve said on a number of occasions, all possible scenarios need to be taken into consideration to get an appropriate projection of a player’s future performance. Let’s recount what’s happened to Frank Thomas so far and delve into why the above quotes could affect him negatively.

Frank Thomas hits three home runs in the first eight days of the season. He then collects just four hits over the next 10 days. On April 19, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons tells Thomas that he will be benched indefinitely, leading many to believe this was being done so that Thomas wouldn’t collect enough plate appearances for his 2009 option to vest automatically. After Thomas—completely justifiably—expresses displeasure over the situation, he is released on April 20. Thomas has not yet signed with a new club.

Now, it seems as though the representatives for Barry Bonds (I think you all know that situation well enough that I don’t have to recount it) are watching Thomas’ situation intently. There are many similarities between Bonds and Thomas, including, but not limited to, the following: big dudes, nearly or over 40 years old, future Hall of Famers, power hitters, injury-prone, don’t play every game even while healthy, looked at as designated hitters, clubhouse cancer stigma.

If you read the two quotes above from Bonds’ agent, you can tell that he suspects collusion may be abound. Heyman suggests that the camp might use a Thomas signing—given all the similarities between the two players—as evidence of collusion against Bonds. So why could this affect Thomas? Here’s my thinking.

If collusion is indeed taking place—and there is some evidence to indicate that it is—then Major League Baseball owners have already shown a willingness to block out a player. True, Bonds is different than Thomas in that Bonds is at the forefront of this whole steroid scandal, but if there really is collusion against Bonds, then ownership has already shown a willingness to take drastic measures to keep him out.

By refusing to sign Thomas as well, it eliminates potentially favorable evidence for Bonds. If both are the same type of player and both are a distraction in the clubhouse, why is the less-talented of the two getting signed?

If Frank Thomas needs to become a casualty in order to keep Bonds out, it may not matter a great deal to them. And because Thomas shares so many qualities with Bonds, it would be easy to leave him on the open market and cite all the same reasons for him not getting signed, “clubhouse cancer” seemingly being the easiest to get away with.

Not signing Thomas would actually make a strong case against those who say collusion is at play (even if it actually is). By leaving Thomas unsigned, it would be easy to say that there simply isn’t a market for this type of player.

Again, this is all guesswork on my part. I have no idea if owners (assuming they are colluding against Bonds, which I am not passing judgment on one way or the other) would take their crusade so far as to disallow an innocent player from playing the game. Seems a little far-fetched, I know.

It is, however, a possibility, and all possibilities need to be accounted for—especially ones that could completely eliminate a player’s value. How likely this possibility is, well, that’s another story. I’m not going to speculate on that because, honestly, your guess is as good as mine. Just some food for thought.

For what it’s worth, I’m still hanging onto Thomas in all the leagues I own him in.

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