There was plenty of unrest among Brewers fans yesterday as it was reported that the club planned to non-tender NL home run champion Chris Carter, leaving the club without an option at first base. Slingin’ David Stearns apparently had another trick up his sleeve as this morning the Brewers announced via Twitter that they had signed 1B/OF Eric Thames to a three year deal with an option for 2020. He’ll reportedly receive a guarantee of $15 mil over three years, roughly $5-7 mil more than Carter was projected to receive in 2017 alone.
Thames, who turned 30 earlier this month, was at one time considered one of the MLB’s better prospects. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 7th round of the 2008 draft and spent 2011-2012 in the big leagues with the Jays and Mariners. Thames batted an unimpressive .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs in 684 plate appearances during those two seasons and eventually bounced around the waiver wire before signing with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization prior to the 2014 season.
Over the past three years Thames became a dominant offensive force in Korea. The KBO is considered an offense-friendly league and roughly AAA level competition, but even in that context, Eric’s three year totals of .348/.450/.720 with 124 home runs and 64 steals across 388 games is incredible production. In 525 plate appearances in 2016, Thames hit .317/.425/.676 with 40 home runs and 18 steals.
Thames will immediately slot in as the hopeful long-term answer at first base, and he won't need to come close to matching his numbers in Korea to justify a $15 mil investment. Stearns is familiar with Thames from his time as an Astros farmhand and praised the slugger’s versatility (he can play both corner outfield spots as well). Thames is reportedly in great shape at age 30 and was receiving a lot of interest on the open market before the Brewers snatched him up.
To make room on the 40 man roster, Chris Carter was officially designated for assignment and the club hopes to be able to work out a trade somewhere.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference