The Twins on Thursday dealt designated hitter Jim Thome to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later, reuniting the slugger with the team he broke in with and hit 334 home runs for over 12 seasons.
The deal takes Thome away from the 55-75 Twins and up to the fringes of the American League Central race. Cleveland, at 63-64, is 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the division race.
"It's a bittersweet deal," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said, "but there's no question that this is the right thing to do for Jim Thome. He is all the superlative things we knew we were getting two years ago when he came here. At this point in his Hall of Fame career, this is the right thing for him.
"It sends him back home, where he started his career in Cleveland. He had many, many great moments. We are appreciative of everything he's brought this organization."
In those nearly two seasons, Thome hit 21 homers at Target Field and owns six of the top 10 longest home runs hit in the ballpark, including a 490-foot blast on July 17. One of the Twins highlights of this season will be when he hit the 600th career home run on Aug. 15 in Detroit. He heads for Cleveland with 601 career homers, eighth all time.
The Indians need offense, with designated hitter Travis Hafner's season in danger of ending because of a strained tendon in his right foot. Thome, who turns 41 on Saturday, can step right into Cleveland's everyday lineup. Thome is batting .243 with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 71 games. Despite spending two stints on the disabled list, Thome is third on the Twins in home runs.
In his final game with the Twins on Thursday, Thome was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
In 179 games with the Twins, Thome hit 37 homers and drove in 99 runs.
Armed with a no-trade clause in his $3 million contract, Thome had the power to veto any deal he didn't like. There was speculation that Thome would veto any deal and force the Twins to release him, where he could turn down more attempts to claim him so he could eventually sign with the Phillies, a near lock to make the playoffs. Instead, he heads back to Cleveland, where he was on teams that lost the World Series in 1995 and 1997.
"Jim had a choice," Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti said. "But he decided to come back to Cleveland. He could have stayed in Minnesota, but he elected to come to our team and we're delighted that he did."
Smith said the Twins will receive their player to be named later by Oct. 15.
The Twins on Friday will announce a move to replace Thome on the their 25-man roster.