The Oakland A’s claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson off waivers, the team announced Thursday. To make room on the 40-man roster, Paul Blackburn was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. No 25-man roster move has been made yet.
Thompson, brother of Warriors NBA All-Star Klay Thompson, was originally drafted out of high school by the White Sox (2009, 2nd round). He finally debuted for Chicago in 2015, putting up a strong performance at age 24, before being traded to the Dodgers over the next winter (along with Frankie Montas!). However, his numbers dipped in parts of two seasons with L.A., and he ultimately lost his spot this spring.
Thompson, 2017 MLB: 55 PAs, .122/.218/.265, 25 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.9% BB, 41.8% Ks
Thompson, 2017 AAA: 369 PAs, .212/.269/.363, 58 wRC+, 9 HR, 7.0% BB, 25.2% Ks
Now 27 years old, Thompson found himself out of minor league options, leading to a DFA from the Dodgers. The Yankees claimed him off waivers on Tuesday, but quickly waived him anew.
Thompson is a right-handed batter who, at his best, can provide bits of power, speed, on-base ability, and plus defense, with experience at all three outfield spots. However, he struggles to consistently make contact, leading to high strikeout rates and disappointing batting averages that can overshadow his strengths.
Thompson, MLB career: 452 PAs, .233/.310/.445, 105 wRC+, 19 HR, 10.0% BB, 25.4% Ks
It’s unclear exactly what role Thompson will find in the organization. Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle reports that he “will join [the] team in Anaheim,” where the A’s open a series against the Angels on Friday. Slusser goes on to mention that they could potentially make space by demoting a starting pitcher, since upcoming off-days will allow them to briefly get away with a four-man rotation.
Of course, Slusser also notes the possibility that Thompson could be back out the door if the team doesn’t find a spot for him, just as happened to him with the Yankees last week (and just as happened to pitcher Jairo Labourt in his brief tenure here last month). Oakland’s current outfield picture is already crowded, including starters Matt Joyce (LF), Boog Powell (CF), and Stephen Piscotty (RF), as well as DH Khris Davis, super-sub Chad Pinder, and platoon righty and backup CF Jake Smolinski.
I love this move for Oakland reasons. Athletics Nation has wanted Trayce for years, because he’s Klay’s brother and the outfield ranks have been thin for a while. Now we’ve got him. We rule!
However, now that it’s happened, the baseball reasons are no longer so clear. The A’s have done a great job of building up usable quantity in their outfield, and Thompson isn’t any better than what they already have:
- He doesn’t show notable platoon splits so he wouldn’t make sense in Jake Smolinski’s role of mashing lefty pitching.
- He’s seen time in CF with fine results, but Boog Powell deserves more than a one-week trial and Thompson would probably be a lateral move at best anyway.
- Stephen Piscotty also deserves far more than a week to prove himself.
- Chad Pinder could move back to the infield permanently, but frankly he’s played the best outfield defense of the whole group so far.
- Obviously the bats of Khris Davis and Matt Joyce are too valuable to replace with a waiver pickup.
Where does Thompson fit, as things currently stand? He’s out of options, so he can’t be stashed in the minors or he’ll just be claimed by another team again. One way or other, it sounds like we’ll see him in Oakland for a couple weeks, so at least for now we’ll get to enjoy a player we’ve long coveted and a proper four-man bench and a defensive upgrade. If there’s one thing A’s fans know, it’s to not bother trying to predict what the roster will look like even two weeks down the road.