Last night, we watched curiously as the Milwaukee Brewers non-tendered first baseman and certified home run hitter Chris Carter for assignment.
Despite finishing with 41 long ones and nearly 100 RBI, Carter’s limited skill-set (high strikeout rate, slow base-running, poor defense), rendered him less valuable on a National League team, especially one for which $8 million in 2017 could be a healthy investment.
But for a while now, the Brewers have felt like a team that might have at least a small chance to surprise in 2017, given the youth on their roster, so why drop so much (relatively cheap) offense without a replacement?
Well, they didn’t:
#Brewers sign free agent Eric Thames to three-year deal with option for fourth year and he will be their 1B. Played last 3 years in Korea.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) November 29, 2016
Free agent 1B/OF Eric Thames has signed a 3-year contract w/a club option for 2020. 1B Chris Carter designated for assignment.
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) November 29, 2016
Eric Thames' three-year deal with the #Brewers is worth more than $15M guaranteed, source says.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 29, 2016
The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent and former KBO star (who is also a former MLB player) Eric Thames to a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year. He will reportedly be the primary replacement at first base for Chris Carter.
Thames last played in the Major Leagues as a 25-year-old in 2012, but has since spent three seasons in the KBO (Korea’s professional baseball league) … where he absolutely mashed the ball, finishing with an OPS over 1.000 every single season (1.111, 1.288, 1.101).
Although I can’t speak towards his potential for success back in the Majors, in terms of what the scouting would say, it’s worth pointing out that he wasn’t just another MLB player taking advantage of lesser pitching in the KBO. Well, he was, but he really took advantage. In three seasons in the KBO, he won an MVP award, a Golden Glove Award, and was an All-Star.
He returns to the Major Leagues, now as a 30 year old with the Milwaukee Brewers.
It is, as Craig Calcaterra puts it at NBC Sports, a bit unusual for a returning ex-pat to receive more than a one year deal, so if that was your initial reaction, you’re not alone. It is even odder, perhaps, that Thames never really put it together at the Major League level before leaving and that the Brewers have reportedly only scouted Thames via videotape, but are still willing to give him up to four years.
But, they may have seen something we haven’t, and there’s nothing wrong with a little gamble, especially given that the total commitment doesn’t appear to be too enormous. Heck, maybe Thames turns into a trade chip in the coming years, even if the Brewers do not become competitive in the near-term.
In any case: continue keeping an eye on the Brewers, my friends, you never know who might be the next 2015 Chicago Cubs.