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Trayce Thompson has played more pinball than baseball this season. A brief history of his 2018 existence:
- March 27: Designed for assignment by Dodgers.
- April 3: Claimed off waivers by Yankees.
- April 5: Claimed off waivers by Athletics.
- April 17: Waived by Athletics.
As he made his way around the league, I’d wondered whether the White Sox would get in on the action, similar to the way they provided a home for the itinerant Casper Wells so many years ago. Thompson being a product of the White Sox farm system is one element, but with Adam Engel scuffling in center field and Ryan Cordell breaking his collarbone, it seemed like Thompson offered a decent chance at possessing the skills required to fill in the Sox’ fourth outfielder gap.
Sure enough, Thompson is back via a series of moves that amounts to a three-way trade. Now you can add:
- April 19: Acquired by White Sox for cash considerations.
The Sox made room by trading Tyler Saladino to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations.So basically, the Brewers sent cash to the A’s as both Chicago and Milwaukee sought to reverse some individual fortunes. Here’s a more jaded way of viewing this sequence of moves:
- White Sox: Received a Player Who’s Battled Back Problems.
- Brewers: Received a Player Who’s Battled Back Problems.
- Athletics: Received cash considerations.
When the Sox traded Thompson to Los Angeles as part of a three-player deal for Todd Frazier, the Sox risked giving up an emerging outfielder in Thompson. Micah Johnson and Frankie Montas had problems staying healthy, making Thompson the best bet to succeed. He hit .295/.363/.533 over 135 plate appearances for the White Sox in 2015, and so maybe the Sox were making a mistake prioritizing Avisail Garcia.
And for a while, Thompson made such an argument. He worked wonders as the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder, hitting .290/.355/.560 over his first 110 plate appearances as Memorial Day approached. Alas, he said his back started bothering him around that time, and after a massive slump in June, he succumbed to the disabled list with fractured vertebrae on July 10, missing the rest of the season.
Since then, he hasn’t been able to generate any major-league momentum. He hit .122/.218/.265 for the Dodgers across three stints in 2017, and he went 1-for-7 with four strikeouts with Oakland in his only action this year. He did rob Yasiel Puig of a homer, which is something.
— Oakland A's (@Athletics) April 12, 2018
Saladino can sympathize. He looked like a capable utility infielder and spot starter in 2016, but that season was cut short in September by back tightness, and it wasn’t an isolated event. The issue flared up again during a disappointing 2017 in which he was perhaps baseball’s least effective non-catcher (.178/.254/.229). With Yolmer Sanchez seizing control of third base, Matt Davidson making positive strides at DH and Leury Garcia floating around as an all-purpose player, Saladino was limited to just nine plate appearances this year.
Both the White Sox and Brewers are hoping for the same thing: that they have the playing time to restore a useful bench player to his former glory. Thompson slides in as either an outright challenger to Adam Engel or a right-handed complement to Nicky Delmonico (and, optimistically, Charlie Tilson at some point). Saladino gives Craig Counsell another option to boost a middle infield with bottom-five production early on.
With Saladino out of the way, this now elevates the importance of Jose Rondon, as he’s the only other middle infielder who is on the 40-man roster. He’s shown some pop early for Charlotte, hitting .260/.315/.540. The 14 strikeouts over 12 games suppresses enthusiasm.
In case you were wondering, Jake Peter is off to an unremarkable start with Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .225/.279/.275 over 43 plate appearances.