Thirteen years ago this week, the A's signed future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas to a one-year contract worth $500,000 plus $2.6 million in incentives. The deal turned out to be one of the biggest bargains of all-time.
The Big Hurt, who was 37 years old, had spent the previous 16 years with the Chicago White Sox, winning two MVP awards and making five All-Star Games. However, he only played 108 games between 2004 and 2005 due to injuries.
Thomas bounced back in a huge way in 2006, slashing .270/.381/.545 with 39 home runs and 114 RBI, finishing fourth in the American League MVP voting. He led the A's in homers, RBI, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+, leading them to a 93-69 record and the AL West title.
Thomas also performed well in Oakland's ALDS sweep of the Minnesota Twins, going 5-for-10 with a pair of home runs. The A's would ultimately lose to the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.
Despite being 37 years old and battling injuries the previous two seasons, Thomas clearly had something left in the tank. The A's decided to take a chance with a low-risk, incentive-laden contract, and it worked out better than they ever could have imagined.
Thomas signed a two-year, $18 million deal with Toronto the following offseason but ended up returning to Oakland for 55 games in 2008, hitting five more home runs. That would end up being his final Major League season.
2019 free agent comparison
Ervin Santana will obviously never be a Hall of Famer, but his current circumstances are similar to those of Frank Thomas in 2006. Santana only made five starts last season due to injuries and should be available for a reasonable price.
The 36-year-old is entering his 15th Major League season with a career record of 149-125 and a 4.06 ERA. In 2017, he made his second career All-Star Game and finished seventh in the AL Cy Young voting, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA.
Santana would certainly fill a need for the A's, who are still looking to add reliable starting pitching. He could be a solid low-risk, high-reward signing.