SweetSpot: Marcus Thames

The Dodgers' exciting left-field platoon!

January, 18, 2011
Well, at least Don Mattingly's now got a viable option in left field, the Dodgers having signed Marcus Thames. Steve Dilbeck:
    Yet this black hole in left was the Dodgers’ own doing. They got themselves into this quagmire, so it is only because previous options were so poor that adding Thames counts as something of a modest upgrade.

    He does have a little pop, something they desperately need, though it’s hard to get excited about a Jay Gibbons-Thames platoon, if indeed that is their plan.

    The two are remarkably similar. Born just four days apart in March, both have reasonable power but something sadly below reasonable defense.

Right fielder Andre Ethier, too. About the defense, I mean.

Which now makes the signing of Tony Gwynn Jr. look pretty smart. While Gwynn's brilliant defense is sort of wasted in the corners, Matt Kemp's probably not moving and Gwynn should come in handy if Mattingly is willing to use Gwynn like Bruce Bochy used Nate Schierholtz down the stretch last season.

Still, it is hard to get excited about Gibbons and Thames, mostly because their (medium, actually) pops aren't accompanied by acceptable on-base percentages. Well, you have to take the bad with the good. Left field does seem like a long-term problem for the Dodgers, and so does Ethier's defense in right field.

It's looking like James Loney won't hit like a first baseman's supposed to hit. If he doesn't, he's soon going to be earning more money than he's worth. Which might eventually open a space at first base for Ethier, but of course that just means a hole in right field.

In the short term, the Dodgers have filled their holes well enough to be competitive in the short term. But this does feel like they're in a holding pattern until a benevolent billionaire comes along and the McCourts can live happily ever after.

Why Lance Berkman? Because they can.

July, 30, 2010
After explaining why the Lance Berkman deal can't be announced until tomorrow, Joel Sherman explains that Berkman hardly fits a crying need for the Yankees ...
    However, his price both in dollars and/or prospects has fallen so low that the Yankees moved to acquire the switch-hitter.

When it comes to position players, the Yankees actually preferred either a supplemental type who either plays the corner infield (to rest Alex Rodriguez on occasion) or bats righty and plays the corner outfield (to put Curtis Granderson on the bench against most lefties). Berkman is neither of these.


Berkman would essentially fill the role the Yankees had envisioned for Nick Johnson, regular DH and occasional fill-in first baseman for Mark Teixeira. He is a veteran bat with plenty of playoff experience and is pals with Andy Pettitte.

Berkman is having his worst season at .240 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs. But in his past 18 games, Berkman has hit .274 with six homers in 64 at-bats. He also is the kind of patient hitter the Yankees always like, and they would be hoping that the intensity of a championship hunt would energize him for a strong finish.This is purely a "because we can" move. The Yankees already lead the American League in scoring, Marcus Thames has been solid as their righty-hitting DH, and there's no shortage of veterans who can use the occasional rest. Particularly with a playoff spot almost locked up already.

But the Yankees have more loose money than a Saudi prince, and a Berkman/Thames platoon will look pretty good in October (the switch-hitting Berkman's been significantly better in his career against righties than lefties). So why not?

Minor league vet pacing Yankees

March, 30, 2010
Bill Madden on the Yankees' feel-good story that almost certainly won't be:
    He is 32 years old, short, stocky and bald, a career minor leaguer with a couple of pit stops in independent ball in Fargo, N.D., and the only thing higher than his batting average this spring are the odds against him making the Yankees' Opening Day roster.

    Meet Jon Weber, the camp favorite in Yankeeland, who is providing the feel-good story of the spring — a story everyone is hoping can somehow have a happy ending.


    There's just one problem: Weber bats left-handed and the Yankees, lefty heavy in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and switch-hitters Nick Swisher and Randy Winn, want the final roster spot to go to a right-handed hitter, in all likelihood Marcus Thames, who is nevertheless struggling mightily (4-for-35 as of yesterday).

    "It's unfortunate circumstances for (Weber) because he's doing everything he has to in order to make the club," said Girardi. "If nothing else, he's making the decision a hard one."

    After watching Weber lining base hit after base hit in the first few games, Girardi called his mentor, Don Zimmer, down at the Tampa Bay Rays' camp in Port Charlotte, where Weber was a year ago.

    "He's everything you're seeing," Zimmer said. "A great kid, who can hit and deserves a chance in the majors." As Zimmer further told Girardi, Weber was on the verge of making the Rays' Opening Day roster a year ago until their perpetually-injured rightfielder Matt Joyce got healthy in the final days of camp. Weber was sent back to Triple-A Durham, where he hit .302 with 14 homers in 117 games.

That "one problem" is a really, really big problem. If the Yankees decide that Thames can't help them -- and for a low-average guy who strikes out a lot, 4-for-35 isn't much to worry about -- they'll just go out and find another righty-hitting outfielder somewhere. It's not like those guys are scarce.

The other problem is that Weber probably can't hit enough. Zimmer's take is a lot of fun, but it's worth mentioning that Matt Joyce played in three games before getting sent down; he was up again in late May, but back down again two weeks later. For whatever reason(s), the Rays left Weber and Joyce in Triple-A for most of the season while Gabe Gross was hitting .227/.326/.355.

Sorry, but I just can't see the New York Yankees finding a roster spot for an old guy who, just a year ago, was behind Gabe Gross and Matt Joyce on the depth chart.

Finding a home for Marcus Thames

December, 11, 2009
Hey, it's a slow news day and my fingers are numb. Even a Marcus Thames item is enough to get me a little excited. So, what's next for "The River"?

    Free agent Marcus Thames, a popular part-time player for the Tigers in recent seasons, is drawing interest from the Indians and Blue Jays, a major league source told FOXSports.com.

    Both teams need right-handed power and have yet to establish clear everyday left fielders for 2010. Thames has averaged 20 home runs per year since 2006, despite the fact that he's never had more than 400 plate appearances in a major league season.

    Thames is a better fit in left than right, and he also has experience at first base. Most of his at-bats this year in Detroit came as a designated hitter. Scouts have questioned his defensive ability, but that would be less of an issue in Cleveland's smaller home ballpark than it was in Detroit's expansive Comerica Park.

    Thames, who turns 33 in March, will probably be inclined to sign with the team that offers him the best opportunity to get regular at-bats.

Well, Thames could play first base ... but he's started only 34 games at first base in his career.

Yes, he could play left field ... but he's not been even average in left field in his career, and at 33 isn't likely to get better (quite the opposite, in fact).

Thames could certainly DH ... but how often, really?

There's probably a spot for Thames in the majors, if he's willing to work cheap. He does have some power, and he's decent against left-handed pitchers. Regular at-bats, though? I suppose it depends on what you mean by "regular." If that means DHing against lefties or perhaps pinch-hitting in the National League, sure. But if "regular" means starting three or four games per week, well then he's hurting your ball club.

Thames was just good enough to play in his late 20s. His prime. But he's now entering his mid 30s, and over the last three seasons he's got a .298 on-base percentage. Thames might have another useful season or two left in him. Then again, he might not. He chose a tough profession.

Tigers trading offense for defense

April, 10, 2009
Thursday afternoon's Jays-Tigers game featured two starters making their major league debuts, and it was mildly surprising when Toronto's No. 8 prospect out-pitched Detroit's No. 1 prospect. Really, though, was it any wonder that Ricky Romero looked so good? The Tiger lineup yesterday featured the following hitters, Nos. 6 through 9:

Brandon Inge -- .304 OBP (career)
Matt Treanor -- .321
Ramon Santiago -- .310
Adam Everett -- .297

And then there's No. 2 hitter Marcus Thames, whose .302 career on-base percentage fits in nicely with those other fellows'. Granted, it was getaway day and Treanor and Santiago are hardly regulars, but still. There is a tradeoff, usually. Management decided to bolster the defense this season, and that decision is highly defensible. I like Everett. And if the Indians don't get it together soon, the Tigers will quickly become the default favorite in the American League Central. But those Tigers who scored almost 900 runs in 2007 and were supposed to score 1,000 runs in 2008?

Those Tigers are gone. It doesn't mean these Tigers can't win, though.