Who will have comeback season in '07?

Who will have comeback year in '07?

The Oakland Athletics took a chance on Frank Thomas and were rewarded handsomely for their foresight.

Injuries had limited him to 108 games and 345 at-bats combined in 2004-05, but the A's gave him a one-year, make-good contract and Thomas did just that. The Big Hurt hit 39 home runs with 114 RBIs, helped Oakland win the American League West Division title and he was named by his peers as the Comeback Player of the Year in 2006.

"Every team needs an impact player and Frank was certainly that for us," former A's manager Ken Macha said at the end of the season.

Now everybody looks for the next Thomas, the guy who can revive his career with a big year and lead his teammates to the playoffs. That's part of the challenge a general manager faces in the offseason, knowing that there can be as much risk involved as there is a reward with a signing.

"Everyone is always looking for ways to improve their team at financial terms that make sense," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "There are examples every year of players returning to their old form after off-years. The challenge is finding the right player. Sometimes it involves good scouting and having good information. A little bit of luck doesn't hurt either."

The Rangers are hoping to get lucky, because they believe Sammy Sosa is hungry and eager to prove himself again. Texas also believes that closer Eric Gagne is healthy and over the back and elbow problems that limited him to just 16 games and nine saves over the past two seasons with the Dodgers.

If the Rangers can hit a "Daily Double" with a former Most Valuable Player and a former Cy Young Award winner, both of whom are working on one-year contracts, then they could be sitting atop the AL West when 2007 is over.

There might have been safer bets on the free-agent market, but Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said, "We're looking for potential impact players, guys who could make a difference."

The Chicago White Sox were looking for the same thing in '06 and came up with Jim Thome, who went from seven home runs and 30 RBIs with the Phillies in 2005 to 42 home runs and 109 RBIs for the Pale Hose.

Now the White Sox are ready to take another chance and bring aboard Darin Erstad, who was limited to just 32 games because of an ankle injury with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Before the 2006 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers took a leap of faith when they signed Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year contract after he was racked by injuries over the past two seasons. Garciaparra responded by hitting .303 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs, and the Dodgers ended up in the playoffs as the NL Wild Card winner.

Now Los Angeles is hoping that Luis Gonzalez will give the Dodgers a similar boost. He had elbow surgery in 2004 and hasn't been the same run producer since then, driving in 79 runs in 2005 and 73 in 2006. But the Dodgers obviously still think that there's something left in Gonzo's bat.

Other candidates for a turnaround season:

• Keith Foulke -- The right-handed reliever had 32 saves and a 2.17 ERA in helping the Boston Red Sox win a World Series title in 2004. However, knee and elbow problems led to Foulke losing his job as Boston's closer. But the Cleveland Indians are hoping that he can give their bullpen a big boost.

• Octavio Dotel -- The right-hander had 45 saves in 2004, then he was derailed by Tommy John elbow reconstructive surgery. The Kansas City Royals, a team that needs to take some chances, signed Dotel to a one-year deal to address their late-inning needs.

• Cliff Floyd -- The left-handed hitter hit 11 home runs with 44 RBIs in 90 games with the Mets in '06 and signed a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2008 with his hometown Cubs on Wednesday. Floyd hit 34 home runs with 98 RBIs in 2005.

• Jose Guillen -- The Mariners signed him after he missed the second half of '06 because of elbow surgery. Guillen had 51 home runs and 180 RBIs in 2004-05.

• Ryan Klesko -- Klesko had just four at-bats for the San Diego Padres at the end of '06 after undergoing shoulder surgery. Now he's rejoining manager Bruce Bochy in San Francisco with a chance to bat behind Barry Bonds, or in front of him. Either way, that could help revive Klesko's career.

• Phil Nevin -- As another ex-Padre still looking for a job, Nevin has slipped at the plate the past two seasons, but he did drive in 105 runs in 2004.

• Trot Nixon -- He was never a big-time offensive player with Boston, but Nixon did average 26 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2001-03 before dropping to an average of nine home runs and 47 RBIs the past three seasons. Nixon has gone from Boston to Cleveland.

• Russ Ortiz -- He won 36 games with the Atlanta Braves in 2003-04 before turning into a very expensive free-agent bust for the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the Giants received favorable scouting reports from the Puerto Rican Winter League and signed Ortiz to a one-year deal.

• Joel Pineiro -- Pineiro's ERA has gone up about one run a year since winning 16 games as a starter for the Mariners in 2003, but the Red Sox think that the righty could be successful as a closer.

• David Wells -- Boomer won just three games in 13 starts for the Red Sox and Padres in '06, and he will turn 44 in May. But the arm still works, and he hasn't had arm trouble since surgery in 1994. Wells also had a bad back, a stomach virus, gout, hand laceration and multiple knee problems. The veteran lefty won 15 games for the Red Sox in 2005.

• Randy Wolf -- As a 16-game winner for the Phillies in 2003, Wolf is just getting back to full strength after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers think that southpaw could be a big sign for them.

• Kerry Wood -- He's back with the Cubs on a one-year deal and if Wood's going to be Comeback Player of the Year Award winner, it will likely be as a reliever. The Cubs have also re-signed Wade Miller.

• Jeromy Burnitz -- He has played for five organizations in the past four seasons, going from 37 home runs and 110 RBIs with the Rockies in 2004 to 16 home runs and 49 RBIs for the Pirates in '06. Burnitz still has not signed on with a club for 2007.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.