Eric Thames last played in the major leagues in 2012, although he appeared in spring training with Seattle in 2013. He played the last three seasons in Korea.
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
MILWAUKEE — Free agent Eric Thames agreed Tuesday to a $16 million, three-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, who cut first baseman Chris Carter after a 41-homer season that tied for the National League lead.
A 30-year-old first baseman and outfielder who spent the last three seasons with the NC Dinos in South Korea, Thames gets $4 million next season, $5 million in 2018 and $6 million in 2019. Milwaukee has a $7.5 million option for 2019 with a $1 million buyout.
He hit .348 with 124 home runs, 379 RBI and 64 steals in 388 games in South Korea — and he will play next season with a definite attitude.
“Obviously, during my career there have been coaches, organizations and GMs that have given me the cold shoulder,” Thames said. “That fuels me but I also have to focus on what my goals are. I want to play every day, stay healthy and help this team win.”
The Brewers have 10 days to attempt to trade Carter, the 29-year-old slugger who agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract last year after he spent his first three seasons with Houston. Carter had 94 RBI and earned $500,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances, but hit just .222 in 160 games last season with a NL-highs in home runs (41) and strikeouts (206).
“A trade is a distinct possibility,” general manager David Stearns said.
Thames spent two seasons in the major leagues, hitting. 250 with 21 homers with Toronto and Seattle in 2011-12. The Blue Jays drafted Thames in the seventh round of the 2008 amateur draft.
Thames could add a left-handed contact hitter to the middle of Milwaukee's lineup, which is primarily right-handed. He was the MVP in South Korea after becoming the first person in league history with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Thames was “one of the top players in Korean baseball history,” Stearns said. “He displayed a power and speed combination that was very unique to the environment.”
Thames said he became more disciplined at the plate during his stint in Korea.
“I was a very aggressive hitter my first time around here,” he said.
Manager Craig Counsell said Thames not only fills a hole in the lineup but can serve as an inspiration to the team.
“You always respect and admire someone who has gone through a journey like this,” Counsell said. “(Thames) still feels he has more to do and that his journey isn't finished. That sets him up for success here.”