TORONTO - The Blue Jays finalized an $18.12 million, two-year contract with Frank Thomas on Friday, then turned their attention to baseball's most prized commodity.
"I think pitching at this point is our No. 1 priority,'' general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "It's going to be an interesting market.''
Thomas gets a $9.12 million signing bonus that is payable in January, a $1 million salary next year and $8 million in 2008. The deal includes a $10 million vesting option for 2009 that would become guaranteed if Thomas has 1,000 plate appearances in the next two seasons or 525 plate appearances in 2008.
The 38-year-old led the Oakland Athletics with 39 homers and 114 RBIs this year, batting .270 Thomas has hit .305 with 487 homers and 1,579 RBIs in 17 major league seasons, 16 with the Chicago White Sox.
He stabilizes a designated hitter's spot that has been in flux since Shea Hillenbrand's acrimonious departure last summer. Ricciardi didn't expect Thomas to leave the Athletics.
"It was a chance to define the (DH) role with one guy, a pretty prolific guy too,'' Ricciardi said. "It really, really makes our lineup pretty potent, and one of the best in the American League.''
His addition likely means the end of Frank Catalanotto's time with the Blue Jays.
"I don't think we've ruled him out but, obviously, it's going to be a lot harder to get playing time for him,'' Ricciardi said.
Rookie Adam Lind, who impressed during a September callup, likely will start the season at Triple-A.
Thomas missed most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons because of injuries.
"We didn't go into this thing without our eyes open,'' Ricciardi said. "We've done everything we possibly can to make sure there's enough medical clearance from our end to go forward with this.''
As for pitching, Toronto has held talks with free-agent starters Randy Wolf, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla and Mark Mulder while also trying to persuade left-hander Ted Lilly.
"We're trying right now to solidify our catching situation, I'd like to have that done before we get to the winter meetings,'' Ricciardi said. "We probably have a self-imposed deadline on that. There's a couple of other little things that may happen before that. The pitching won't be resolved until people get to the winter meetings.''