Milwaukee Brewers: Should Eric Thames Be A Trade Candidate?

The Milwaukee Brewers saw Eric Thames go from a regular lineup presence to a benchwarmer in the 2018 season. Is it time to trade the veteran first baseman?

It was a season to forget for Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames. After getting off to another hot April start, swatting seven home runs with a .250 average, Thames injured his thumb on April 24th and missed six weeks.

He was ready to go by mid-June, but Jesus Aguilar had taken the starting first baseman’s role for himself in the six weeks Thames was gone. After returning, Thames spent most of his time in the outfield to get his bat in the lineup still since Domingo Santana was struggling.

Thames in the outfield is a defensive liability, to say the least. His limited range and lack of instincts out there at his non-primary position put the Milwaukee Brewers in a tough spot defensively.

Not only that, but his offensive numbers took a tumble after he moved to the outfield and his playing time diminished.

Thames is one of those players that needs to play every day in order to find his swing and perform his best. He’s not like Jesus Aguilar, who can be productive in a pinch hitter’s role. As a pinch hitter, Thames went 4-for-28 this year, which gives him a .143 batting average.

Jesus Aguilar has seized the starting first baseman’s role for himself and he doesn’t look to be giving it up anytime soon.

Eric Thames’ Contract

2019 is the final guaranteed year on Thames’ contract. He’s due $6 million next year and has a club option for 2020 at a value of $7.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Based on how his playing time and production has gone, that option is unlikely to be picked up by Milwaukee.

Thames should get a chance to prove to a team his contract option should be picked up for 2020, but that won’t come with the Brewers.

Possible Trade Partners

$6 million is a lot to pay a player with poor defensive skills to sit on the bench, especially for the budget-conscious Brewers. It makes sense to trade Thames from their standpoint, but the big issue is finding a trade partner.

Thames would likely be best suited for the American League, where he can DH from time-to-time, if not every day. Of the AL teams, there are a few who could seek a first baseman. The Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners are two teams who Thames could be of use to.

The Twins are about to lose Joe Mauer to retirement and don’t really have any big time prospects at the position coming up. They also have plenty of payroll flexibility as they try to keep pace with the Indians in the AL Central, as Cleveland is the only other team in that division that’s trying to win. Thames’ $6 million salary won’t be a huge roadblock for their organization and would be a nice fill-in.

The Mariners don’t have much payroll flexibility at all and could look to shed salary this winter to improve their roster. If Seattle were to acquire Thames, they’d likely request another player or two and try to pawn off Felix Hernandez‘s or Mike Leake‘s contract on Milwaukee. That would sound like a great idea for the Brewers if this were 2014. But, unfortunately, we’re heading into 2019 and those players have regressed big time.

Eric Thames won’t bring much back to the Milwaukee Brewers in any trade this winter. He’s coming off a rough year, finishing with a .219 batting average. But he still showed some pop with 16 homers, a .783 OPS, and a 106 OPS+ in 2018. Technically, he was an above average hitter in 2018, but it was below the expectations for him as his OPS dropped nearly 100 points from 2017.

If another team believes they can utilize Thames as a full time player, they could acquire him and pay him less money than most of the free agents at first base will be looking to sign for.

The Milwaukee Brewers have an exciting offseason ahead of them as they look to get back to the World Series for the first time since 1982.