What to do with Marcus Thames


Let’s cut right to chase here: Marcus Thames has been absolutely dreadful in Spring Training so far. He’s reached base in just four of his 33 plate appearances, and all three of his hits are singles. Thirteen of those plate appearances, or nearly 40%, have ended with strike three. That’s not what the Yankees expected when they offered him a chance to win a job on their bench back in February. We talk about how insignificant Spring Training stats are all the time, and generally they are, but there are some instances in which they do have some meaning. One of those instances is when you have a guy like Thames trying to win a job.

Unfortunately the Yankees have already jettisoned Thames’ primary competition from camp, shipping Jamie Hoffmann back to Dodgers. Hoffmann’s spring performance wasn’t anything to write home about either (3-for-23, three walks, one strikeout), but unlike Thames he’s able to contribute something beyond offense. Baseball America rated him as the best defensive outfielder in the organization before he was returned, and he’s capable of double digit steals. Thames is a proven commodity on both defense and on the bases, posting a -12.2 UZR/150 in over 1,760 innings in leftfield, and he’s stolen a grand total of three bases in over 500 big league games. If he’s not hitting, he has no value. It’s that simple.

With Hoffmann gone and almost all of the other non-roster invitees shipped out, it leads us to believe that Thames has all but locked up a spot on the 25-man roster. He’s a Proven Veteran™ after all, and over the last three years he’s hit .263-.326-.541 with a studly .370 wOBA against lefthanders. That’s going to his primary job, to come off the bench and pinch hit against the lefty late in the game or occasionally start against one in lieu of Brett Gardner. The track record is certainly there, but Thames isn’t young (turned 33 earlier this month), and over the last four years he’s become increasingly more susceptible to fastballs (0.72 runs above avg against fastballs per 100 thrown in ’06, 0.40 in ’07, -0.07 in ’08, and -0.24 in ’09). If that’s the not the sign of a guy losing some bat speed, then I don’t know what is.

At this point, the only other realistic in-house option is Kevin Russo, who was just shipped to minor league camp. He had himself a very nice camp (8-for-25, three doubles) and offers the ability to play all over the infield and fill in at the outfield corners if need be. Russo will never offer the power Thames has, even with the latter in his decline phase, but he’s got better plate discipline and is more contact oriented. It’s an imperfect solution to an imperfect situation.

Despite his struggles, it’s all up guaranteed that Thames will break camp with the Yankees as their designated lefty masher. He can opt out of his contract if he doesn’t make the team, so there’s no option of stashing in the minors and hoping he finds his stroke. Joe Girardi rolled out the excuse that he hasn’t face many lefties this spring, but they’re supposed to this weekend so we can see how that goes. Scheduled to face southpaws Jon Lester and David Price within the first four games of the season, the Yanks are going to need Thames to start hitting and soon. Otherwise they’re better off taking 0-fers from Brett Gardner while reaping the rewards of his defense as they prowl the waiver wire and trade market for a suitable fill in.

Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel, AP

Categories : Spring Training


  1. Oy.

    *takes a deep breath, remembers that Vicente Padilla isn’t the Yanks’ Opening Day starter, and remembers it could be a lot worse*

    • Christ says:

      Marucus Thames will come thru for yankees with his power stroke… even tho spring training not goin so well he still will help the yankees be that elite ball club. No worries marcus only you know what you can do so take it step by step cause in the end you will shine ……..

  2. Mike Z says:

    I would like to see the Yankees cut Thames and sign Dukes.

  3. Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

    well…at least f he doesn’t hit they can….meh whatever. mi still recovering from the those who shall not be named and the fact that thames is going to be sucking ace til they cut him hasnt overtaken that yet.

    • Templeton "Brendog" Peck says:

      still baffled by the hoffmann return so soon as well

      • Sal says:

        I’m just happy we don’t have Brian Bruney anymore. If he saves 40 games this years for the Nat’s I’ll still be happy.The only reason we had Hoffmann was because no one wanted to just cut Brian Bruney . Now the yankess can say we made a deal that didn’t workout if Brian Bruney has a good year! He was a WHINER

  4. radnom says:

    “Spring training don’t mean shit.”

  5. ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops says:

    At this point, the only other realistic in-house option is Kevin Russo…

    What about Golson? Isn’t he also an realistic option?

  6. Sal says:

    Trade him for Carl Crawford and maybe some cash lets say 387 million? Or we can just let him get his 12 AB in April and if he hits 1 homerun walks twice be happy. The fact is if he’s the 25th man who cares for the 1st few months of the year. I’m not sure what they are paying him, but if its over the Min, he won’t stick for opening day. lots of waver guys cheap

  7. What to do with Thames?

    Hope that the team is good enough that we don’t need him for any significant PT, and DFA him if it doesn’t work out. He’s a dime a dozen.

  8. YankeesJunkie says:

    I was really disappointed that Hoffmann was given back so early given Thames who had played so poorly a spot on the roster. Having a guy like Hoffmann early in the season with flexibility might be better to have than a guy that can only hit lefties. Hopefully, Thames plays well against lefties and is able to hold his own on defense, but I am not confident that he will make it to the ASB. However, players like him will come cheaply towards the trade deadline a la a righty version of Hinske.

  9. Steve H says:

    As much as Thames has sucked, if he sucks through the end of May, he’s easily replaceable. I’d be all for Dukes now, but since that’s not an option, all they can do is wait. If he continues to suck, and Dye/Sheffield/Baldelli continue to be available, send him packing.

  10. I have to wonder what Dye’s price is looking like now. I know he was demanding something in the range of $5M, but it’s clear that market will never materialize. He’s horrific in the outfield, but if we’re looking for a designated lefty masher on the cheap then he might be an option. He has a lifetime .505 SLG and .871 OPS against LHP.

    The price still may be too high, but it’s getting close to April and that dude still is unemployed.

  11. Sal says:

    Ok here is a Question

    Would you be happy if the yankees 5th starter of the next 4 years posted numbers like this

    4.05 122 122 792.751

    Or if your 4th starter or 3rd starter posted the same numbers?

  12. Joe R says:

    Thames looks like Betemit in that picture. Performing about the same right now too.

  13. A.D. says:

    Have a feeling that Thames may be Ensberg-like in terms of production & time with team this year.

  14. RobertGKramer says:

    I see NRI David Winfree is quietly batting .600 against lefties and is still in camp. He’s 24 and out of the Minnesota system where he likely had good teachers. If Thames can’t get the bat working tonight or tomorrow he could be toast!

  15. Flippa says:

    thames won’t be on the roster come June

  16. Chris says:

    Thames has been so dreadful it seems unfair to reward him when guys like Winfree and Weber (who is batting like .565) have earned a spot.
    There was talk of trading someone (Mitre? to keep a second LH in the pen) to get Hoffmann back, but it also seems odd to trade for a guy like Hoffmann twice.
    I hadn’t thought about Dye, but if he’s willing to be a bench guy I kind of like that.

  17. Bill R says:

    I guess he must of read your post mike because he hit a bomb today!

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