It’s not unheard of for a major league club to sign a guy who has been out of the bigs for a while. Maybe someone who played independent ball or went to Japan or Korea or something. It is unusual for them to give such a guy a three-year deal. But that’s what the Brewers have done today, signing Eric Thames to a three-year contract, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. They have an option on him for a fourth year too. The deal guarantees Thames $16 million. He’ll be paid $4 million in 2017, $5 million in 2018, and $6 million in 2019. The club option for 2020 is $7.5 million with a $1 million buyout.
The idea is for Thames to play first base, replacing Chris Carter, who the Brewers were reported last night to be non-tendering.
As Ashley wrote over the weekend, Thames has not played in the majors since 2012. During his two-year stint here the lefty batted .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs and a .727 OPS for the Blue Jays and Mariners. He raked in the minors but was unable to replicate those results in the big leagues. After his release from the Astros’ Triple-A Oklahoma in 2013, the outfielder-turned-first baseman signed with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization.
He has been outstanding in the KBO, however, hitting 124 home runs and 379 RBI in three seasons, winning an MVP award, a Golden Glove Award and a trip to the KBO All-Star Game. While understanding that KBO is a hitter’s league, he hit .317/.425/.676 with 40 home runs in 2016. In 2015 he was even better, hitting .381/.497/.790 with 47 homers and 140 driven in.
Adam McAlvy of MLB.com says the Brewers scouted Thames solely from videotape of his KBO games. That may be a gamble — as may be a three-year deal for a guy who hasn’t played stateside since 2012 — but it’s an intriguing one to say the least.