The Milwaukee Brewers need to solve first base this off season. Should they look for a platoon partner for Eric Thames, or are there other options available?
Coming into 2019, the Milwaukee Brewers appeared to have first base figured out for the foreseeable future. Jesus Aguilar would see the bulk of the at-bats at first, while Eric Thames would platoon at first, and pick up a few plate appearances off the bench and in the outfield.
Aguilar was traded for Jake Faria before the July 31st trade deadline, and Thames isn’t a guarantee to return. What should the Milwaukee Brewers do to solve first base in 2020?
Are there any options internally?
Not really. The Milwaukee Brewers don’t have an option in Double-A or Triple-A who could take over the full-time first base job.
Will Thames return in 2020?
Thames has a club option for 2020 that’s worth $7.5 million. The Milwaukee Brewers could either decline his option and send Thames to free agency or keep him at the $7.5 million rate for 2020.
Thames slashed .247/.346/.505 in 459 plate appearances in 2019. He blasted 25 homers and drove in 61 runs this past season. He ended up starting 89 games at first base in 2019.
It’s likely that Thames returns at $7.5 million, but the team could decide to decline his option and look for a full-time option at first.
Could the Brewers try another platoon?
Yes. Finding a platoon partner for Thames is much more likely than cutting Thames loose and searching for a full-time first baseman.
Thames is a lefty who is awesome against righties. The Milwaukee Brewers would have to find a right-handed hitter capable of handling left-handed pitching to make a platoon work.
Are there any options available?
Through free agency? There should be. However, the Milwaukee Brewers are known to covet versatility and will likely want a player capable of filling in elsewhere on the diamond.
Jedd Gyorko has a team option worth $13 million with a buyout worth $1 million. That option is very unlikely to get picked up, and Gyorko is unlikely to return the Los Angeles Dodgers. He should pocket his buyout and look for a new job. He’s capable of playing every infield position except catcher and he’s coming off a rough 2019 campaign.
If the Brewers are interested, Gyorko is cost effective and capable, but he’s also coming off a rough season. Gyorko slashed .262/.346/.416 in 402 plate appearance in 2019. He blasted 11 homers and drove in 47 runs.
In addition to Gyorko, Ryan Zimmerman should also be available this off season, and he’ll be seeking a part-time or bench role with a contending team. He’s capable of handling left-handed pitching, and doesn’t need a full-time job to produce. The Milwaukee Brewers could make sense as a landing destination for Zimmerman. The Washington Nationals have a team option on Zimmerman for 2020, but it’s worth $18 million and comes with a buyout worth $2 million. Zimmerman will likely also cash his buyout, and look for a different team next year.
What about Travis Shaw?
Travis Shaw would make sense at first base, but he’s a left-hander who…doesn’t hit much of anything. Shaw isn’t an option at first base for the Milwaukee Brewers. He could also end up as s DFA candidate.
The Milwaukee Brewers will likely try to platoon with Thames instead of seeking out Mitch Moreland or Jose Abreu to play first base in 2020. There are options available, but they’re not exactly ideal. First base will look different in Milwaukee next year, and what happens with Thames will indicate what the team is thinking. If he stays, it’s a platoon. If Thames goes, anything could happen.