Former ChiSox slugger agrees to 1-year deal with A's

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Frank Thomas called Oakland general manager Billy Beane to reiterate how thrilled he would be to join the Athletics.

The two clicked at last month's winter meetings, and it led to a contract for the free-agent slugger.

Thomas agreed to a $500,000, one-year deal with Oakland on Wednesday, giving the A's the big right-handed bat they've been searching for in the middle of their lineup. He will be formally introduced Thursday.

"Frank Thomas is a presence," Beane said. "Not only would he be our type of offensive player, he would be everybody's type of offensive player. ... If Frank is healthy, he's been good against everybody."

Thomas, a two-time American League MVP who has been slowed by injuries in recent years, can make an additional $2.6 million in bonuses based on plate appearances and not hurting his left foot. He played his first 16 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, who won their first World Series title since 1917 last season.

"It's a good day," said Thomas' agent, Arn Tellem. "From the beginning, the A's were Frank's first choice if he wasn't going to go back to Chicago. Frank had a great meeting with Billy Beane in Dallas at the winter meetings and that created a lot of momentum to getting the deal done. I think there was an instant connection between the two. They have the same philosophy. Frank is very excited to come to Oakland and he thinks he can contribute to a good club and help the A's win."

The low-budget A's have spent recent offseasons losing big-name players such as Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Damon, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. But after missing the postseason for the second straight year following four consecutive trips to the playoffs, Beane has added Thomas and Milton Bradley to a lineup that struggled to score runs at times last season -- and done so without losing anyone of significance.

Beane had been interested in acquiring Thomas for months and the deal was reportedly in the works for some time. Thomas will be the A's primary designated hitter and join Eric Chavez and Bradley in the heart of Oakland's order.

Hobbled by leg injuries for the second straight season, the 37-year-old Thomas hit .219 with 12 homers and 26 RBI in 34 games in 2005. He played only 74 games in 2004 following a 42-homer season the previous year.

In the last 10 days, the A's put him through a series of stress tests under the supervision of team orthopedist Jerrald Goldman, who Beane said was amazed because Thomas handled more strenuous activity than Goldman expected.

"Frank felt great. Frank believes he'll be ready in spring training," said Beane, acknowledging the A's will be conservative with their new slugger.

Beane said Thomas appeared at the winter meetings to be in the best shape he's been in years "from a visual standpoint."

"There was a real sense of determination in talking to him," Beane said. "You could get carried away with superlatives with Frank Thomas. Arguably, he is one of the greatest offensive players of his generation."

Thomas started the 2005 season on the disabled list following surgery, played for the first time on May 31 and then went back on the DL on July 21 with another left ankle fracture. He did not play again and could only watch as the White Sox swept Houston to win the Series.

In a move that came as no surprise, the White Sox parted ways with Thomas during the winter meetings last month when they refused to offer him salary arbitration. But Thomas criticized the team's handling of the decision, telling Chicago newspapers that he thought the White Sox portrayed him as an injured player even though his foot is healed.

"We're happy we don't have to see him a lot," White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. "In the last five years, when he's been healthy, he's been doing the job. It's not a lack of skills. It's just a matter of that injury. If he gets healthy, he's going to do some damage."

A five-time All-Star, he has a .307 career average with 448 homers and 1,465 RBI. He won consecutive MVP awards in 1993 and 1994. Thomas can still hit and is hopeful he can still reach the 500-homers mark and put himself in position for the Hall of Fame.

With the addition of Thomas, Dan Johnson will likely be Oakland's starting first baseman and Nick Swisher and Jay Payton could share time in left field. Bradley will start in right alongside center fielder Mark Kotsay.

"This is the first year since I've been here we haven't spent the offseason replacing guys we've lost," Beane said. "Having too many players who deserve to play is not a bad problem to have."

Thomas can earn $1.4 million in roster bonuses if he is on the active major-league roster or not on the DL related to a left foot injury. He would get $325,000 each on May 1 and June 15 and $375,000 apiece on July 15 and Aug. 15.

He can also earn $1.2 million in performance bonuses: $200,000 each for 300, 350, 400, 450, 500 and 550 plate appearances.