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.
We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).
Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.
On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”
As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.