Is this the year Thames gets traded

The trade winds are blowing. On Sunday Peter Gammons mentioned Marcus Thames as a player the Tigers have made available. Now the Freep has two articles mentioning the fact that Thames is a trade candidate and that with 2 weeks left before the season, the phones are getting more active.

In the past when Thames name was floated, it was usually in an effort to acquire another big league player, like a relief pitcher. But with the pen seemingly in decent shape at the moment, this is more a matter of balancing a crowded outfield situation.

The starters are pretty well set (Guillen/Granderson/Ordonez) and the bench is tight and predominantly right handed. Working against Thames are his right handedness and the fact he can’t really back up in centerfield. Other right handers like Brent Clevlen (out of minor league options) and Ryan Raburn can play all 3 outfield positions. Thames spot could become Jeff Larish’s who could spell Cabrera and Inge on the infield and provide some left handed pop. Or it could become Clete Thomas’s who can also play all 3 outfield positions.

The downside to trading Thames is that you know what you get with Marcus. In the event of injury to a corner outfielder who you have veteran who will be able to provide some plus power. And if you look at left field an injury is really very likely. The other guys mentioned have much less of a track record and ceilings that aren’t remarkably high. It also would mean an end to the annual “Why isn’t Marcus Thames starting” debates.


  1. rings

    March 24, 2009 at 7:47 am

    As a Marcus supporter, I’d hate to see him go, but if he does, I hope he gets a chance to truly start and be left alone. For all the lip-service Leyland has paid to him, he’s trotted every possible alternative out there to avoid giving him a starting job.

    He’s done everything that could be done to improve himself and filled his role with nary a dispariging word or complaint (as opposed to others on the roster, who can’t keep their feelings to themselves). I wish him the best.

    If he isn’t traded, he’s also a perfect replacement for Gary Sheffield later this season and/or next year.

  2. jason

    March 24, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Well, I like Thames. His power numbers are pretty impressive considering the playing time he gets. At the same time, I see the situation we have, and think it may be a good idea to see what we can get. I also would like to see him get a chance to play full time somewhere and see how he does.

  3. Mark in Chicago

    March 24, 2009 at 8:08 am

    I am confident that if Marcus gets traded we will all find some other silly topic to debate.

    What worries me is: who then has the best first name-middle name combo on the team? I mean, Marcus Markley is pretty tough to top.

  4. Chris Y.

    March 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Nice comment rings.

    The club would be served far better if Thames were the everyday DH, not Sheffield.

    For that matter, where in the heck did Gammons come up with the observations to name Sheffield as a bounce-back player in 2009? So far this spring, i just don’t see it. Same old Sheffield, and same results. Time for the guy to hang them up.

  5. Will J.

    March 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

    No way should Marcus ever get traded. He is too valuable should either Sheffield, Guillen, Ordonez or Cabrera ever get hurt. He can play three positions, right field, left field, 1st base and of course DH. Who cares if he can’t play CF, since playing three positions is valuable enough. At the same time, he does deserve to play every day, as he probably has for at least the past year or two. If he does get traded, I hope he finally does get the chance to play every day, as I hate to see this guy waste the prime of his career in a backup role.

  6. Chris in Dallas

    March 24, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Country Funk.

  7. stephen

    March 24, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Wow, the most interesting fact in that story was season tickets are down nearly 45% from 27,000 to 15,000. I sure hope the team gets off to a hot start!

  8. Chris in Dallas

    March 24, 2009 at 11:38 am

    RIP. Interesting, as today I’m wearing a t-shirt with all of the Tigers HOF’ers on it…

  9. rings

    March 24, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Chris Y: it was interesting to note that Dayn Perry of Fox Sports questioned the Tigers acquisition at the time, saying they had the same guy in Thames for far less money and no prospects. I agreed, but I suppose that’s another topic/debate entirely.
    While I lament is lack of true opportunity in Detroit, I wish Marcus the best, whatever his role or team. He’s one of the good guys.

  10. Mark in Chicago

    March 24, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Hang on a second. To say that Marcus is “the same” as Sheffield is a big stretch. Granted, Sheff’s production hasn’t been there due to injury, but when he was healthy in 2007, Sheff was very good. He walks far more often than Thames. Sheff had a .326 OBP last year despite hiting just .225, Marcus was at a .292 OBP. Marcus, in his best year, had a 123 OPS+. Sheffield’s career OPS+ is 141.

    Sheffield wasn’t hurt when we traded for him, so while these numbers don’t mean as much now due to Sheff’s injuries, it’s a gigantic leap of imagination to say Thames was going to give you even close to the same production as Sheffield.

  11. Anson

    March 25, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Looks like Billfer got mentioned in the Freep… and even got his quotes twisted around to say something else!

  12. Dave BW

    March 25, 2009 at 11:34 am

    It turns out that Raburn does in fact have an option remaining. Thank god, I would hate for my son to be traded to some underpowered National League team.

  13. rings

    March 25, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Mark in Chicago: of course, Marcus IS not the player that Sheffield WAS, but the point was – AT THE TIME of Sheffield’s acquisition – who was more productive for the money? Perry says they’d have been better off with what they had, I agreed, and history has proven him largely correct.
    People have been using the injury excuse for Sheff since he arrived, but the truth is that he hasn’t been “productive” since ’05 and he’s old now…he’s never going to be healthy all the time, so “if he was healthy” doesn’t matter. He isn’t. He was supposed to be “healthy and ready” this spring, and he’s hitting .205 against half minor league guys who’re throwing fastballs.
    As for a “healthy stretch” for Gary in ’07, every player has hot streaks. You may recall Thames’ streak last season which carried the team for nearly a month as he was practically hitting a dinger a day in July, so that doesn’t really mean much as far as comparison.
    Marcus, while not walking as much as Gary, hammers the ball at a better rate than anyone on the roster as measured by HR/AB, which are instant runs. Sheff is not a potential hall of famer because of his walks or his OBP, its because of his career traditional stats like RBI/HR/AVG…in the last 3 seasons, he hasn’t done much in that department.
    We wasted $41m and three prospects on Sheffield…I’d argue that $$ would have been better spent elsewhere and that a full-time Thames – while he is never going to be a “star” – would have produced just as many runs, if not more, over that same time period for a fraction of the price and none of the attitude.
    Gary was a great player, but Marcus would have been a better deal over the past two seasons, and will be over this season as well.

  14. Chris in Dallas

    March 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    rings: Good points, all. I’ll quibble on one minor point. He hasn’t been productive since 2005, which is true. That’s also the last season he was healthy from wire-to-wire. (Remember he missed the vast majority of ’06 with the wrist injury). And he was reasonably healthy for the first half of 2007, which (coincidentally or not) is when he was also reasonably productive. That being said, he’s 40. I’m not making any kind of guarantees on him. If he can hit 25-30 HR, the Tigers will win the AL Central though. There, I said it.

  15. Andre in Chi

    March 25, 2009 at 5:10 pm


    Two questions:
    1) Does Rayburn know you’re his father or is there some sort of Skywalker/Vader/Empire Strikes Back moment coming up?
    2) Does he have you to thank for the “bulge” or does he get that from his mothers side? (no disrespect to his mother, of course)


    Too much semantics/hindsight in your Thames/Sheffield argument, as Sheffield’s health was not as in question as it is now. $41 + prospects was not “wasted” but – as is usually the better choice of words in most of these cases – “gambled”. At the time of Sheffield’s acquisition, the Tiger’s were widely thought of as needing more offense + patience at the plate, both of which Sheffield (ideally) provided. Comparing Sheffield’s ’07 healthy-streak to the ups and downs of average players is misleading. Yes, it was a streak of sorts, but many players are healthy for entire seasons and don’t end up with the totals he had that year, let alone in the time he was healthy enough to put them up in.

    Thames has certainly shown to be the better “value” of the two, but at the time of Sheffield’s acquisition, I doubt that many people viewed him as the answer to the Tigers offensive problems. In this regard, Sheffield was viewed as potentially being more capable of helping the team take the “next step”, even if he was a considerably less thrifty choice.

  16. Chris in Dallas

    March 25, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    There’s also some juice to Thames struggling when being overexposed. To wit, here are his 1st vs. 2nd half OPS splits:

    2006: 1006 vs. 709
    2007: 810 vs. 744
    2008: 907 vs. 667

    To me that illustrates why he shouldn’t be playing everyday. It seems that after about 250 AB’s he falls off a cliff. I’ll gamble with the guy who’ll end up with HOF caliber numbers over the guy who really needs a platoon partner, even if Sheffield is declining faster than Julia Roberts’ box office receipts.

  17. Chris Y.

    March 25, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    You know, I think what gets lost in all of this is the “guy” each of these players is and who the average guy would want on his team. As a disclaimer, I don’t know either player, and I am only working from quotes and observations.

    Marcus seems very personable, doesn’t bitch about the continual jerking of his status on the team from role player to top slugger and back again — over and over. It seems like I always see him signing for fans, talking with fans and friends before the game.

    Sheffield couldn’t be more different. The list is long, but a few items standout that, I think say it all. One, his comments about the WBC. His statement that he’d never play baseball for “free”. Clearly, the dough means a lot to Sheffield and his career is more about an investment than the game. Say what you want about the ethics or morality of it (I recognize the opinions are diverse), that’s his motivation. And two, his bitching about not playing the outfield when he wasn’t completely healthy. This seems trivial, but you could identify a series of events in this guy’s career where he “wasn’t happy” and was vocal about it.

    Personally, I never have been able to stand Sheffield as a player (fine tools, rotten attitude). I didn’t like the acquisition when it happened and I don’t like it right now. Last I checked, we didn’t lose much outside of organizational depth regarding prospects, but we’ve lost more as a team. And Thames has been one of the players most affected by the presence of Sheffield.

  18. rings

    March 25, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Chris/Dallas & Andre – both of your points go back to the premise “if he was healthy” or that his lack of performance was due to injury. He isn’t healthy all the time and won’t be. I’d submit that he often comes up with an injury right about the time the fans and media gets on him for slumping. Again, Gary WAS a great player – he’s not any more. He’s old and doesn’t have the “helpers” he used to use and his HOF reputation counts for nothing in the future…by that argument, there’s plenty of retired HOFers we could acquire.

    Call it a “gamble” or “waste” the result is the same. Sheffield has been a bust and many people saw it coming. Both Dayn Perry – on his ’07 MLB preview – and I – as a commenter on this site and others – made the argument (when he was acquired from a Yankees team that was anxious to be rid of him) that he would not be much better than Thames’ potential, particularly considering the vast difference in salary: Sheffield’s made $41m over these three years (’07-’09), while Thames has made just under $4 over the same time period. Are you seriously going to argue who was the better value? Do you not think that cash would be handy in acquiring pitching or a catcher this past off season?

    Regardless, it isn’t “hindsight”…it was our stated opinion at the time and its held true. Sheffield was acquired because Leyland wanted him (the same reasoning that brought us Neifi Perez and Jose Mesa, at a price tag of $6 million)…using the argument was that they “needed” patience at the plate and a “big bat” in the middle of the lineup, but this was also coming off a world series appearance, so the “need” was doubtful, in my mind.

    As for Thames “overexposure” argument, its the one that may hold some water, as he’s had a swoon every season (again, as every player does suffer slumps), but he’s also improved his performance as he’s received more plate appearances. The fact is, he’s never been given the opportunity for one reason or another, in ’07 due to injury, but usually a manager’s decision. His best season was also his most work, with 356 AB’s, with 26 bombs and a .333 OBP. I’d take it any day. His career HR/AB would be in the top 15 ALL-TIME when he reaches 3000 plate appearances…and he can’t get a full-time job.

    Since ’06, Leyland has played literally 3 dozen guys out there ahead of him, not the least of whom is Sheffield, who’s inevitable departure would be addition by subtraction in my humble opinion. To continue Chris Y’s point above: there’re 6 franchises already in Sheffield’s past who were more than pleased to see him go, despite his HOF production. The Tigers will be no exeption, I’m sure, and his latest comments to the Boston press that the Tigers are “forcing” him to DH is the beginning of another lousy ending if you ask me.

  19. Andre in Chi

    March 25, 2009 at 7:21 pm


    I acknowledged that “Thames has certainly shown to be the better “value” of the two”. However, in this case i mean value in terms of output/price. I also qualified my valuation of Sheffield based on what his health was at the time of acquisition. In those terms, while Thames was a better value for the money, Sheffield (again, at the time) was a much better bet to improve the team. History has proven you correct, and I certainly don’t mean to take away from that.

    “As for Thames “overexposure” argument, its the one that may hold some water, as he’s had a swoon every season (again, as every player does suffer slumps), but he’s also improved his performance as he’s received more plate appearances. The fact is, he’s never been given the opportunity for one reason or another, in ‘07 due to injury, but usually a manager’s decision.”

    Last year I posted the results of what I thought was a fairly in-depth look at Thames’ stats, game logs, etc… trying to figure out any cause/effect between his production and playing time. I’m no expert, and I had only numbers to go by, but it seemed pretty clear that as he improved at the plate, his playing time went up…not the other way around. In fact his playing time did not drop until well after his numbers went down drastically. Believe me, when he was tearing it up, I was running the same “if he gets 500 ABs he’ll lead the lead in x, y and z!”. As far as I can tell, he both earned his increased playing time last year, as well as his subsequent cut-back.

  20. Chris Y.

    March 25, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I hadn’t seen the Boston Globe content, but just caught it on Bless You Boys (thanks rings).

    Hmmm, well…

    I love the tongue-in-cheek Sheffield, the tortured Sheffield, almost as much as the outright ripping you in the rear-view Sheffield.

    To DD: can we please scuttle the S.S. Sheffield immediately following home run 500? Please?

    This guy is a clubhouse tumor waiting to metastasize.

  21. rings

    March 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    Andre, I’m not making this case to say “I was right,” because I was equally wrong on my optimism for Dontrelle Willis when we acquired him. I’m saying that many folks did not find Gary to be a good bet when we acqured him, myself included. If the Yankees thought he’d still be productive, they never would have let him go, much less been happy to trade him. He was DONE in NY, regardless of whether we took him…that should say something as for his chances here.

    However, just a quick rebuttal on Thames – albeit anecdotally – this past year provided a perfect example of “managers’ decision.” Thames was on fire in June/July and had homered in two of his first three games after the all-star break, hitting around .270. He was benched following an 0-3 to start the Kansas City series on July 21st and did not play again for 5 days…after which time he went ice-cold, leading to his August slump.

    Want to take a guess who played every day in the meantime, going 3-16?

    In fact, from the date of that benching, Sheffield had 231 PAs (hitting .225), nearly double Thames’ 117 PAs (.197). Again, both were poor (although Marcus was only getting sporadic starts while Gary was playing nearly daily) but I don’t see the 10x salary difference here.

    The year before, in 2007, Thames was hot again and (arguably) carrying the club in their last charge before getting hurt while making a diving catch to end the game vs. Minnesota in July…when he recovered, the Tigers were out of it and a red-hot Timo Perez had pretty much claimed LF, along with the kids. He played only occasionally in the final month, also fighting a slump.

    In 2006, he was on the short end of the Craig Monroe competition.

    Now, maybe his 0-3 vs. KC was a sign last year, but he’d homered the day before, so I kind of doubt it. In my view, this was a manager’s decision leading to a slump. At the time, I’d think that Marcus felt he had to homer ever day he was in the lineup (which he nearly had) or he’d lose playing time – at least that’s the way I would have felt, if I were him – and he was likely pressing or “trying to hard” to do just that. Regardless, his August was rough and his playing time diminished before he got back on track a bit in September, playing only sporadically the last two months.

    Now, I haven’t seen your research, but my observation last year leads me to believe that there’s nothing wrong with Marcus Thames that playing every day wouldn’t fix. He’s never going to hit .300, but he’ll be around .250 – which is what some are hoping for Sheff above – and he’s been incredibly consistent in his HR production throughtout his career. And he’ll do all this without complaint and for a fraction of the cost of Mr. Me First.

  22. JAY-RC

    March 26, 2009 at 7:09 am

    I guarentee no matter how piss poor Sheffields season is that it’s still more productive than Thames’. I’ll take Sheffs higher OB% (even after last years terible year) than Marcus and his back to back Homeruns followed by ten strikeouts in a 1-20 slump. We all know Gary isn’t the same Gary… But wow where does the Thames Love come from? He can’t field and everyone seems to forget his lack of production in 2006 when he was the full time DH. It looks pretty on paper to simply equate everything and say wow imagine if Marcus got 500+ ABs! But really it’s just the opposite the more he plays the more his numbers plummitt. Great guy… But cash in while the stock is high… He’s not getting younger.
    People are crushing on Thames like Brandon Cringe…That just scares me!
    Will they ever realize that hitting .220 with a decent glove doesn’t cut the mustard!? Especialy while a young left handed Larish can hit .275, walk more,hit for power and give u a solid glove.
    Inge and Thames gone… Please

  23. Chris in Dallas

    March 26, 2009 at 9:55 am

    One aspect of the game that Sheffield has brought that Thames never has is stolen bases. He was 22/27 in ’07 and 9/11 in limited time last year. People often forget about that.

    I’d like to see Thames succeed somewhere, as he seems like a pretty good guy and he’s provided some great moments as a Tiger. He probably should get traded. There’s just too much of a logjam at OF/DH for him on this club, and another year of limited playing time isn’t going to do him any good since he’s only got a limited number of years left in his “prime”. Ideally I’d like to see Carlos Guillen traded (bigger salary off the books, and you might get something worthwhile for him) and have a LF platoon of Thames/Larish or something like that.

  24. rings

    March 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Last response:

    “everyone seems to forget his (Thames’) lack of production in 2006 when he was the full time DH. …
    Will they ever realize that hitting .220 with a decent glove doesn’t cut the mustard!?”
    …because none of this is true!!!

    As I’ve detailed above, his production has gone UP with more PAs. In 2006, he hit .256 w/26 knocks in 350 AB. Everytime Marcus Thames has had at least 150 AB in a season, he’s hit between .242 and .256. He’s NEVER hit as low as .220 with any playing time (unless you’re speaking of Inge here).

    On the larger point, Sabermetrics has proved at least one thing: the two best ways to produce runs are OBP and XB power. Gary Sheffield takes a lot of very expensive walks in between leaving guys on base, but Thames has the latter in historical measures…that’s where the “love” comes from.

    I like Marcus, but certainly not “in love” or talking with blinders on like many hyperbolistic Inge fans. I haven’t said Thames will have a “better career” than Sheff or that he’s an all-star or future HOFer, Gold Glover or anything like that…I’ve only said, that – at this point in their careers (since 2006) – Thames is and has been a MUCH BETTER VALUE than Gary Sheffield (and incententally, is a MUCH better fielder than Sheffield too!)….and there’s really no question on that point.

    Anyway, good discussion to all who kicked in. As stated in the initial comment, I hope Marcus gets a chance somewhere and wish him the best!