Milwaukee Brewers Appear to Have Struck Gold With Eric Thames

The Milwaukee Brewers took a chance on Eric Thames this winter, and if the early returns are any indication, this deal may turn out to be a steal for the Brew Crew.

This winter the Milwaukee Brewers signed Eric Thames to a three year, $16M deal with an option for a fourth year at $7.5M in 2020. The contract amount is a decent size to give someone that had spent the last three seasons playing overseas in Korea and hadn’t shown much in his previous stints in the Major Leagues. Nonetheless, GM David Stearns and the Brewers brought Thames aboard.

Through his first ten games (entering Sunday), Thames was 3rd in FanGraphs’ WAR rankings at 0.8, relying heavily on his bat to get him to that point while playing roughly average defense at first. On Sunday he added another home run, a solo shot, giving him six dingers and 11 RBI through eleven games. This should give him a slight bump, which by the time this goes up should be updated on FanGraphs.

There are two players listed ahead of Thames on the leaderboard, both of whom have a 0.9 fWAR. The first is Francisco Lindor, who has been enjoying an early power surge of his own and also providing his typical stellar defense.

The second player is Zack Cosart, a 31 year old shortstop that typically provides above average defense and some pop. He has started off the season by batting .485 and is getting on base at a .538 clip, which obviously isn’t sustainable. Neither is Thames’ .382 batting average in the early going. Regardless, the contract that he is playing for is so far in the team’s favor at this point that he could have outplayed the entire deal by midseason.

At his current rate, he’ll play in roughly 137 games in 2017 and be good for a 10.96 fWAR. Again, that isn’t going to happen, but if he plays at half that rate, or a 5.5 fWAR for the 2017 season, that would be equal to roughly $44M worth of production if one win equals eight million dollars.

When Eric Thames was brought in, the Milwaukee Brewers already had Chris Carter on the roster, but subsequently non-tendered him after signing Thames. What they have gotten in return is a player that walks more, strikes out less, and is a better defender at first base. All while providing the same pop at the plate for just a bit more than what it would have cost them to sign Carter.

If you’re a Brewers fan that is looking forward to better days, Thames may not be the answer as he is already 30 years old and Milwaukee is still a couple of years away from really competing. What should provide you with hope, however, is the ability of the front office to recognize talent and bring them in without breaking the bank, which is how depth is accrued to build a contender.

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