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USA Today's Nightengale with trade rumors...

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Various notes and rumors from Bob Nightengale...

The one specific Ranger mention is about how the Indians "now plan to make a run at Blue Jays infielder Shea Hillenbrand and Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench." Why every team seems to think that Kevin Mench is the low-hanging fruit on this team, I don't know. And given that the Rangers and Indians have virtually the same record right now, and are both in the Wild Card hunt, I'm not sure why Mench would be dealt to Cleveland.

The more intriguing note, to me, is the lead segment, about the Phillies wanting to dump Jim Thome to make room for Ryan Howard at first base.

Thome is having an awful season, posting a .207/.363/.352 line on the year while grappling with elbow tendinitis, but he's a career .281/.408/.562 hitter, and from 1995-2004 never had an EQA lower than .308.

Thome turns 35 in August, and it may just be that he got real old, real fast, and will never be close to as good as he was before 2005. He's owed $12.5 million in 2006, and $14 million each of the following two seasons, with a $3 million buyout of his 2009 option.

That's a lot of money...a hair under $50 million, including the remainder of his 2005 salary.

But the Rangers were willing to go 4 years, $50 million for Carlos Delgado, if Delgado would agree to DH. Thome, while being two years older than Delgado, has also been a much better hitter throughout his career.

And possibly most important, Thome has the Hart ties. Thome debuted in Cleveland in 1991, became a regular in 1995, and left for Philly the year after John Hart left Cleveland for Texas.

For a club needing a big bat at DH and an infusion of OBP, Thome would seem to fit the bill. If he's healthy, of course, and if his struggles this season are due to an acute problem, something that won't hinder him long-term.

That, of course, is the $50 million question. If you believe Thome is going to rebound, is going to give you a solid .310-.330 EQA from now until 2008, then he's worth taking on the contract, and he's worth giving up a decent prospect or two for.

If not, if there are health risks, if there are fears that Thome simply got old or got weak or got Giambi and simply can't play anymore...well, that would be an awful albatross of a contract to get stuck with.

All things considered, though, I think Thome is someone worth taking a long look at, particularly if the Phillies are willing to subsidize some of the contract. Adding Thome -- a consistent .400 OBP guy with power -- to the middle of this lineup, putting him, Teixeira and Blalock 3/4/5 in the order, would be a huge boost to the offense.

You'd have to think about it...