The Milwaukee Brewers have an outfield glut. A glut large enough that Ryan Braun, the face of the franchise, is being taken out of the outfield. The problem is that he is being moved to first base. The Brewers signed a first baseman last offseason that would put a crimp in the plans of the move to first base. A possibility would be trading the first baseman at the current moment to an American League team so he can DH. However, is there a team for Eric Thames?
Eric Thames got a club-friendly contract after absolutely demolishing the Korean Baseball Organization. As a member of the NC Dinos (based in Changwon, South Korea), Thames walloped 124 home runs in three seasons. That averages out to 41 1/3 home runs a season, but you cannot have 1/3 of a home run. Regardless, aside of the insane power, in three seasons, Thames hit .349/.451/.721 bating line with OPS of 1.172. To make those numbers more insane, he only grounded into 15 double plays in all three seasons combined.
At age 30, Thames returned to America with a nice three year, $16 million deal with an option for 2020. His 2017 season was a reflection of many seasons for players around baseball: insane uptick in power. Thames hit 31 home runs in 2017, after a career of just 21 between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners. However, after hitting .349 in KBO, which is basically the equivalent of AA in terms of talent, Thames hit just .247/.359/.518 in MLB. He had an insanely hot start then cooled in the second half.
The question is, what is the real Eric Thames? Are we going to get the Eric Thames of the first half of 2017 in 2018 or are we going to get the second-half player? Most likely, the second-half Thames is the Thames we will get. His fielding has never been an issue, with a .993 fielding percentage at first base in 2017. When he played the outfield, he had a .962 field percentage in left field (25 games). Thames also had five games in right field, with a perfect 1.000. That is not an issue that one has to consider.
Ryan Braun is the face of the Milwaukee Brewers, despite everything in the Biogenesis scandal. He reflects the blood of Wisconsin baseball and signed that contract. The big issue is that Braun is owed $56 million over the next three seasons. The Brewers also have a bunch of outfielders, acquiring Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich during the offseason. They also have Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, who both hit for power and have higher ceilings. Braun is 34 years old, he can still move to first base, and probably will be hitting with power like he always has.
So where does that leave Eric Thames? There is no room in the outfield for him in 2018. The star of the franchise is moving to first base. Thames has a team friendly contract. A trade to a team like the Oakland Athletics would be reasonable. There he can play 1B and DH every day, have a chance to play 150 games and be a star on the team. David Stearns has looked at trading an outfielder, but maybe they should look at first base.