The Milwaukee Brewers have signed free agent first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames to a three-year deal that includes $16 million guaranteed, the team announced on Tuesday.
In a corresponding roster move, the Brewers designated first baseman Chris Carter for assignment, clearing a 40-man roster spot for Thames.
“I’m so honored to be here,” Thames told the media on Tuesday. “Last year, two years, three years ago, I had no idea what the future had in store for me and I’m very fortunate that David and the Brewers’ organization looked at me with hope and believe in me and believe in my talent set. I’m excited to be here. I’ll take it one day at a time, work as hard as I can, play for the team and win a championship. Why not?”
Thames, who recently turned 30, has played the last three years of his professional baseball career in Korea, as a member of the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization.
In Korea, Thames was crowned the MVP of the KBO in 2015 after he slashed .381/.497/.790 with 47 homers, 140 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases. He followed up his MVP season with his second consecutive 40 homer season in 2016.
“Eric brings to the organization a left-handed power bat that is a good fit for our lineup,”Brewers general manager David Stearns said in a statement. “His ability to play first base along with both corner outfield positions adds versatility to the roster. Eric has been extremely impressive over his last three seasons in Korea, and we look forward to his return to the Major Leagues in 2017.”
Thames has played a total of 181 MLB games in his career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners where he batted .250/.296/.431 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs.
“His journey, thus far, is inspiring,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You always respect and admire someone who has gone through a journey like this and ended up in a place like this and a day like this. You also respect and understand that someone like him is going to feel like he has more to do, and that his journey is not finished.
“That sets him up to have success here, and I’m excited he has chosen this as the place to continue his journey.”
Thames’ contract includes a team option worth $7.5 million that includes a $1 million buyout. If Thames gets the option picked up by the Brewers, he will then make $24.5 million on the deal.
The payouts for Thames’ contract are straight forward. He will earn $4 million in 2017, $5 million in 2018, and $6 million in 2019.
Sources told ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that the Brewers will be restricted from sending Thames to the minor leagues, and that he will become a free agent once the deal expires even though he has under six years of MLB service time.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland Athletics also expressed interest in Thames before the Brewers were able to seal the deal, per Crasnick.
Milwaukee believes Thames will be apart of their next contending team, and for now he joins a Brewers infield that features Scooter Gennett, Hernan Perez, breakout star Jonathan Villar, and young prospect Orlando Arcia. Gennett has a cloudy future with the team going forward, as he seems like the most likely player to be traded.
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