I have a question. Will we look back in ten years and think that Trayce Thompson was one that got away? Was he a guy, like another toolsy outfielder I’ll bring up in a moment, we were fortunate enough to have on our roster, but couldn’t quite put it together (perhaps hampered by injury) until the Dodgers were in his rearview mirror? I’m not gonna lie, there was a bitter sweetness to seeing Trayce Thompson in a non-Dodger uniform. As fans, we have a predisposition to cheer for the “good guy,” and Trayce by all accounts is one of those genuinely good guys. Of course, good intentions, deeds and disposition don’t pay the rent.
Eventually, your performance will be the only thing that dictates whether you’re deserving of a spot on the team. And apart from a couple of months in his first season with the Blue Crew, Thompson’s never really did. More on that later.
Thompson has an intoxicating skill set. The power is real. His 13 home runs in only 262 plate appearances in 2016 attest to that. Even though he only stole five bases, the speed is real as well. His outfield defense is a barely comprehensible mish mash of sensational athleticism and comic ineptness. You could be forgiven if watching him cringe-worthily misplay a routine Joc Pederson fly ball into an extra-base hit and then spectacularly rob Yasiel Puig of a home run a few innings later brought on a strong sense of déjà vu. With the assumption it was believed his defense would eventually normalize to more consistent, it’s easy to see the Dodgers were eager acquire him in what, with the benefit of hindsight, has turned out to be arguably the worst move the Andre Friedman/Farhan Zaidi front office has made.
As a reminder, three other current big leaguers (Todd Frazier, Scott Schebler, and Jose Peraza), two of them of measurable quality, changed teams in that trade. The Dodgers got Thompson, right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas who has been mostly injured and since traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Rich Hill to Los Angeles, and infielder Micah Johnson who has since become little more than a minor league journeyman.
It never happened for Thompson with the Dodgers. After a hot start, he began to struggle badly. To make matters worse, a fracture in his back brought his 2016 season to a premature end. Perhaps still hampered by that injury, he couldn’t get untracked at all in 2017, hitting terribly in AAA as well as with the big club in limited plate appearances. Being out of options, he had to make the 2018 team in spring training or be likely lost on waivers. As we know, he stunk and was released.
There are some eerie parallels to Jayson Werth here. The Dodgers picked up Werth in 2004 in a deal with Toronto for pitcher Jason Frasor. Werth had a strong rookie season with the Dodgers, and you may recall, had a key base hit in the rally that led up to Steve Finley’s legendary division-winning grand slam. 2005 was less kind to Werth. He was injured when hit by an AJ Burnett pitch, and played mostly poorly when he returned. He subsequently missed all of 2006 when further injury to his wrist was discovered.
There was some ill will towards the Dodgers by Werth, perhaps believing the team did not treat his initial injury correctly, and so the Dodgers chapter of Werth’s career was closed. Werth would go on to hit 20 or more home runs six times, and post an OPS+ of 120 or greater seven times. So yes, it’s fairly safe to say that Werth is one that got away.
Will we see something similar from Trayce Thompson? Will we see a promising start to a career, derailed by an injury and a long time on the shelf, followed by a renaissance with a new team? If we do, hopefully it’s with less bitterness than Werth felt. Personally, the baseball fan in me certainly hopes so (the bitter, selfish, and middle finger-waving grump in me hopes not). Fortunately, if it does happen soon, the A’s are in the American League and unlikely to make the playoffs. Let alone the World Series. So at least it won’t come back to haunt us directly.
What about you? Where do you see Trayce Thompson’s career going? Let us know on Twitter @DodgersNation and @thestainsports. Thank you for reading.
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