Eric Thames is returning from a three-year stint with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) to play for the Brewers. Thames posted video game numbers in Korea, particularly in 2015 when he slashed .381/.497/.790, with 47 home runs and 40 steals. He fell back to earth somewhat in 2016, but still posted a .317/.425/.676 line with 40 homers. Thames did have a sharp platoon split, however. The lefty hitting Thames did most of his damage in 2016 against righties, torching them for a .360 average and 28 home runs in 247 at-bats. The recent history of players transitioning from the KBO to MLB has been a mixed bag (Jung Ho Kang and Byungho Park), but Thames appears to be more confident and aggressive at the plate than he was during his previous time in MLB (where he had a career .727 OPS). He's set to play first base for the Brewers, but he could sit against some left-handed pitching.
Thames (knee) is batting second and playing first base during Sunday's Cactus League game against the Giants. Thames was scratched from Friday's lineup with right knee soreness but is set to return this afternoon. The injury appears to have been very minor.
Thames was scratched from Friday's lineup with right knee soreness. It's unclear how serious the issue is or how long it will keep him out, so Thames should be considered day-to-day until the Brewers say otherwise.
Thames is 4-for-19 (.211) with a double, an RBI, and a 4:6 BB:K through eight games this spring. Thames is having trouble making contact early this spring, but he is still doing a good job getting on base. After spending three years in Korea he will be the Brewers' primary first baseman to kick off the 2017 campaign, but he hits righties far better than lefties, so it remains to be seen how much playing time he will see against opposing southpaws.
Thames agreed Tuesday with the Brewers on a three-year, $15 million contract, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports. After indicating Monday that first baseman Chris Carter, who walloped a career-best 41 homers last season, wouldn't be tendered a contract for 2017, the Brewers didn't wait long to find a replacement for him in the lineup. In an outside-the-box move, Milwaukee elected to bring aboard Thames, a 30-year-old converted outfielder who last appeared in the MLB with the Mariners in 2012 before developing into one of the more fearsome power hitters in the Korea Baseball Organization for NC Dinos over the last three seasons. In his 388 games in the KBO, a league that compares favorably the high minors, Thames slashed a ridiculous .348/.450/.720 while smacking 124 homers in 388 games. The recent history of players transitioning from the KBO to MLB has been a mixed bag, but the Brewers are gambling that Thames will follow the path of the Pirates' Jung-Ho Kang rather than that of the Twins' Byung-Ho Park. The biggest obstacle he'll face will be adjusting to the higher-caliber pitching and velocity of the majors, but his previous experience in the majors may confer him an advantage in that regard.
MLB.com reports that the Astros released outfielder Eric Thames, who will play in Korea next season, on Monday. The Astros claimed Thames off waivers from the Orioles in September after he hit .252 with three home runs in 36 games for Triple-A Norfolk.