The San Francisco Giants have made it no secret that they are searching for more power this offseason. Could Eric Thames be the answer?
Monday was a busy day for MLB transactions, with a number of teams making decisions on 2020 contract options and qualifying offers. Those moves could have an impact on the San Francisco Giants plans this offseason.
As a result of contract options being declined, several notable players joined the upcoming free-agent class, including Milwaukee Brewers first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames.
The 32-year-old had a $7.5 million club option declined in favor of a $1 million buyout:
I am nothing more than an armchair general manager, but I believe the Giants should be among the first teams interested in the left-handed slugger, and for a number of reasons.
Right off the bat, a true “left-handed slugger” is something the Giants have sorely missed over the last few seasons. Though players like Steven Vogt, Alex Dickerson, and Mike Yastrzemski brought some pop from that side of the plate, they are not prototypical middle-of-the-order guys. Vogt and Dickerson were excellent platoon options in 2019, while the Giants clearly preferred placing Yastrzemski in the first and second spots in the lineup.
It stands to reason then that Thames would certainly add value to the lineup card.
Since returning stateside after a stint in Korea, Thames has posted a .241/.343/.504 line over 1,112 plate appearances in three seasons. Along the way, he has accumulated 72 home runs, 161 RBI, and 68 extra-base hits. That comes to an average of 24 home runs, 54 RB, and 23 extra-base knocks in 429 appearances per season.
That set of stats includes a down year in 2018 when he was in competition with, and ultimately lost his playing time to, Jesus Aguilar. Even when his batting average dropped to .219 during that season, he still produced 16 home runs in 278 plate appearances.
While I did argue that the Giants should avoid power hitters with low batting averages like Brian Dozier in a recent article, Thames has a solid .244/.327/.478 line for an .805 OPS over five seasons in the majors.
He has also proven capable of hitting in San Francisco over a small sample size, posting a .320/.346/.640 line with four extra-base hits and a home run in 26 plate appearances at Oracle Park.
Not to mention, he comes with his own fan chant. What’s not to love here?
As a power-hitting, left-handed bat, Thames fits what the Giants are looking for in a general sense, but how would he get regular at-bats?
The easy answer would be a semi-regular role where he sees some time at first base and in left field.
From there, he could potentially play his way into a more regular role if he shows the form he did in 2017, or even this past season when he had an .851 OPS and 25 home runs. That could mean either a full-time spot in the outfield, or a trade of Brandon Belt to open up more playing time.
At the very least, Eric Thames is an intriguing option who is now readily available on the free-agent market. Bringing him aboard would create some competition in the starting lineup and add some needed pop to the offensive attack.