The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a rather unique position as the All-Star break draws near. As of July 4, they are leading the NL Central (50-35 as of July 4; 1 game ahead of the Chicago Cubs). Normally, division leaders are considered buyers as the trade deadline approaches, but that is not the case (at least not entirely) with the Brewers.
They are looking to sell; to be specific, they are looking to trade Eric Thames.
Thames signed with the Brewers prior to the 2017 season. While he doesn’t hit for average (.247 last season), his power numbers were not bad (OPS– .877; slugging percentage– .518). No one is ever going to complain about a guy hitting 31 home runs in a season.
Sounds like the kind of guy a competitor would want to hold onto—right?
This season, injuries have allowed him to appear in only 41 of the team’s first 85 games. His batting average is not very good (.248). But his power numbers are not bad (OPS– .923; slugging– .574). Just over half of his 32 hits this season (through July 4) have been for extra bases (four doubles, a triple and 12 home runs).
A case for holding onto him could be made because he is actually doing more of what the Brewers acquired him for this season—hit for power. Then why trade him?
Two reasons: (1) they don’t need him anymore with the emergence of Jesus Aguilar (.308 BA; .617 slugging; .987 OPS) and an already crowded outfield, and (2) they could use help with their starting rotation.
A contending team can afford to trade away a good player if that player is not an every-day player. Should you need help in another area, you have a bargaining chip you will not miss. If you are lucky, you can help pick up a player that you need for that ‘chip.’
If that kind of scenario is one that will work out for you, then that is great. It never hurts to get someone you could use. If you can’t, then you hold onto the ‘bargaining chip’ and enjoy having depth at that position.
Does this mean the Brewers are ready to trade Eric Thames? Absolutely. They would almost be foolish not to trade him. They’ll likely need to package something or someone else with him in order to pick up one of the better pitchers available.
But if doing so will help them win their first division title since 2011, they’ll figure something out without giving away someone they need.