Eric Thames had a solid 95-game debut with Toronto last season and then beat out Travis Snider for the starting left field job during spring training, but the Blue Jays have demoted the 25-year-old to Triple-A after he hit just .243 with three homers and a .652 OPS in 46 games.
That represents a 137-point drop in OPS compared to his rookie production and Thames’ on-base percentage was particularly awful at .288, due largely to a horrible 40/9 K/BB ratio.
Snider is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a wrist injury, which keeps him from getting the nod to replace Thames despite hitting .333 with a 1.015 OPS in 26 games for Las Vegas.
Instead the Blue Jays seem likely to turn to Rajai Davis as the primary left fielder even though he’s hitting just .220 with a .705 OPS in a part-time role and lost a starting job last season by failing to produce at the plate. Once healthy presumably Snider will get a chance, but the timing of the Thames demotion combined with his injury is interesting.
Vladimir Guerrero continues to work out at the Blue Jays’ spring training complex, but he’s not really an option to play the field regularly at age 37 and likely remains several weeks from potentially joining the team anyway.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2010 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.