"When Frank is healthy, he is a huge right-handed presence," Beane said. "And that's been a big issue for us the last couple of years."Thomas thus becomes an older, more experienced update on Erubiel Durazo, whom the A's turned away after his own injury-limited tenure in Oakland. Durazo and Scott Hatteberg, who also departed as a free agent, split the majority of DH duties last season. Durazo also backed up at first base, and Thomas now becomes the reserve there. Various leg injuries have limited Thomas to a total of 108 games the last two seasons. A left-ankle stress fracture ended his 2004 season in July, and he didn't rejoin the White Sox until the end of May 2005. Two months after his return, he again was sidelined by pain in the ankle, days later diagnosed as another fracture. Thomas, a former tight end at Auburn University who often carries as much as 260 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame, must constantly watch his weight, which can contribute to the stress on his legs. Before becoming merely dangerous in 2001, when an arm injury limited him to 20 games, Thomas was downright monstrous. Consider these numbers for his first 11 seasons: 344 homers, 1,183 RBIs and a .321 career average. Despite adding to his totals only modestly since 2003, Thomas left the Windy City as the White Sox all-time leader in several offensive categories, including homers (448), RBIs (1,465) and runs (1,327). And he has always worked his own threat to an advantage, with the patience and discipline to lay off when being pitched around. He has drawn 100-plus walks in 10 of his 12 seasons with 500-plus plate appearances, resulting in a lifetime on-base percentage of .427. For comparison, last season only New York's Jason Giambi (.440) topped that figure in the AL. Another full season would thrill the A's and reward Thomas. He can earn $1.4 million in bonuses by avoiding the DL with an injury related to his left foot ($325,000 each on May 1 and June 15, then $375,000 on July 15 and Aug. 15) and another $1.2 million by reaching 550 plate appearances, the AP reported. "You could get carried away with the superlatives," Beane said. "Not just his power, but his selectivity at the plate. That type of approach can carry over to the other guys in the lineup." Thomas has already cemented his role in Major League history as one of only 10 men with a .300 career batting average, 400 home runs, 1,000 RBIs, 1,000 runs and 1,000 walks. Eight of those are in the Hall of Fame. No. 9 is a guy who does his damage across The Bay.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.