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A’s to sign Eric Thames to minor league contract

Local slugger comes home!

Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We have baseball news! This is not a drill, folks!

Free agent slugger Eric Thames is signing a minor league contract with the Oakland A’s, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. The transaction is possible during the ongoing MLB lockout because it does not involve putting a player on the 40-man roster.

The 35-year-old Thames is a lefty batter with some major league success on his resume. He debuted in 2011 and played a couple years in the bigs, then moved to Korea and found his breakout there in the KBO, hitting 124 homers over three seasons and winning a league MVP award. In 2017 he returned to the majors and brought his power with him, blasting 31 dingers for the Brewers and then going on to post two more strong campaigns in Milwaukee.

  • Thames, 2017-19 MIL: .241/.343/.504, 72 HR, 118 wRC+, 12.0% BB, 31.1% Ks

He capped off his Brewers tenure with a postseason highlight, going deep off Max Scherzer in the 2019 NL Wild Card Game.

Unfortunately, the past couple years haven’t gone quite as well for Thames. He joined the Nats for the abbreviated 2020 season and his numbers went down (3 HR, 68 wRC+), and then he moved to Japan last summer but missed most of the year to a torn Achilles tendon, per Slusser.

On defense, he played mostly first base and a little bit of corner outfield during his most recent stint in the majors, and also figures to make sense in the DH spot.

The immediate future of the A’s roster is still up in the air, with the offseason on pause during the lockout. They have players right now, but many are expected to be traded away when transactions resume, so it remains to be seen what things might look like when the dust settles.

One of the stars on the block is first baseman Matt Olson, and if he does go then his position would be up for grabs. As for DH, last year Oakland used Jed Lowrie and Mitch Moreland for much of the year and also tried out a Khris Davis comeback, but all of those veterans are currently gone as free agents.

Analysis

File this under, “Sure, why not?” like all minor league signings. Don’t cost nothin’, and sometimes you find a Zombie Lowrie or some such delightful hidden gem.

Thames is super fun, a big slugger with a big smile. He’s been good in the majors before, not that long ago, and he’s not too old to do it again. And he’s a local dude, born in San Jose, with high school at Bellarmine Prep where Mark Canha went.

Back in 2017, when Thames was a hot free agent coming back to the States, many on Athletics Nation wanted Oakland to sign him before he ended up in Milwaukee. The A’s stuck with Davis at DH and Breakout Yonder Alonso at 1B, which held things down until Olson arrived, so it all worked out nicely anyway. But now Thames is finally here, five years later!

It’s just a non-roster lotto ticket to take a flyer on a veteran comeback, but it’s a pretty cool one. Welcome Eric!