With the Yankees having a very righty-heavy lineup, could Eric Thames make sense as a lefty hitter with some pop to bring in on a one year deal?
The Winter Meetings have come and gone and the Yankees are in a pretty good position right now. Although only making two moves, one of those two moves has absolutely rattled the entire offseason in signing Gerrit Cole, while the other, although small, could pay dividends in the clubhouse for the bombers in bringing back Brett Gardner on a one-year deal.
So with Cole on board and Gardner back in pinstripes, the Yankees have done most of their heavy lifting for the offseason. With that being said, there’s still work to be done, and making a run at a lefty bat like Eric Thames could make sense for the Yanks.
Yankees and Eric Thames: Why?
For those who don’t know, Eric Thames went to Milwaukee following the 2016 season in the KBO. Since 2017, Thames has been a prolific power hitter. From 2017-2019, Thames cracked 72 home runs, which is just an average of below 25 a season. Thames is also a strong on-base percentage guy, despite his low batting average. Although hitting just .247 this season, his on-base percentage sat at .346, which, for a guy with a fairly low batting average, a .346 on-base percentage is impressive.
Another reason why the Yankees should have interest in Thames is that he’s a lefty bat. As many would know, the Yankees’ lineup is fairly dominated by right-handed hitters, including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez. With Didi Gregorius headed to Philadelphia on a one-year deal, it would make sense for the Yankees to target a lefty bat to fill that void and add balance to an already-potent lineup.
Where does he play?
The good thing with Thames is that, with the designated hitter, you can make a platoon or a rotation work in case players that are expected to perform fall flat. The first plan for Thames would likely be a platoon role at first base with Luke Voit. Although Mike Ford had a strong mini-campaign at first last season, he’s unproven and should not be fully relied on for an extended role. That doesn’t mean Ford isn’t good, more so meaning that he’s a wildcard while Thames is more proven.
The other place where Thames could play is a designated hitter role. Right now, with center fielder Aaron Hicks hurt, we may see an outfield of Gardner in left, Mike Tauchman in center, and Aaron Judge in right. Although Gardner is a leader in the clubhouse, his 28 home run season should not be expected to be repeated, simply because of how surprising it was for Gardner to hit 28 home runs when his previous career-high was just 21.
Also, a player like Tauchman has the same treatment as Ford here, in my opinion. While his rookie season was very impressive, there’s a real possibility he falls flat next season. If either Gardner or Tauchman can’t produce, the option for the Yankees could be to move Giancarlo Stanton from designated hitter to the outfield and then transition Thames into the designated hitter role.
All things considered, Thames is a productive hitter who gives the Yankees options, and on a one-year pact, taking a chance on him wouldn’t be too outrageous. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees have interest in the lefty-swinging first baseman in the coming weeks.