I’m still irked at T.J. Simers’ weapons-grade idiocy in his Marcus Thames column. And a lot of what is animating that is something that I neglected to mention in the last post on it: Marcus Thames is a really, really nice guy. I’ve never met him, but several reporters I know have talked about him being warm and friendly, as have several fans who have had the privilege to root for him or meet him. No, he’s not a five-tool player. No, he’s not a superstar. But that’s kinda not the point.
A few minutes ago reader PierzynskiAteMyKitten — um, viva pseudonyms — posted his own Thames recollection:
Thames is a class act, and it’s painful to see him attacked like this. While with the Tigers, he was always mentioned in the same sentence as Granderson as one of the truly good guys in baseball.
Here’s my little Thames anecdote: while he was rehabbing with the Toledo Mud Hens, I saw him play my local Durham Bulls. It was a drizzly day, and I was one of the few fans in the stands, and one of even fewer to be dressed in full Tigers regalia near the Mud Hens dugout. There was another family of Tigers fans near me, including several young kids, also in full Tigers gear. Before the game, Thames came over and chatted with us for a while, and then gave the kids a boatload of gear, including a bat, balls, and batting gloves. It was by far the coolest interaction I’ve ever had with a pro baseball player.
This is who Simers decided to belittle. This is who Simers decided to go after when he had a case of writer’s block. I realize it’s hard for Simers, what with him having written nine entire items in the month of March so far, to come up with new material, but one would think that he’d choose a different target to attack when he felt the need.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.