The Tigers announced Thursday that they’ve signed right-hander Jake Thompson to a minor league contract. The former top prospect was originally a second-round pick by the Tigers back in 2012 and will now return to his original organization.
Detroit traded Thompson and then-prospect Corey Knebel to the Rangers back in 2014, netting righty Joakim Soria for their bullpen in that July 23 swap. Thompson continued on an upward trajectory in the Texas minor league ranks, so much so that he was viewed as a key piece when the Rangers flipped him to the Phillies a year later in the 2015 Cole Hamels blockbuster. (Remember when teams actually made trades in July? Nostalgia!)
Things never really panned out for Thompson in Philadelphia, however. The right-hander pitched in parts of three seasons from 2016-18 but managed a pedestrian 4.87 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9 in 116 1/3 innings. Home runs, in particular, were a struggle for Thompson during his time with the Phillies, as evidenced by a career 1.5 HR/9 mark at the big league level.
Rather than pursue a minor league pact in free agency this winter, Thompson instead opted to sign with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization. There, he posted a 4.74 ERA with 8.6 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 through 62 2/3 innings in the extremely hitter-friendly KBO environment. Lotte cut him loose last month, though, and he’ll now return stateside in attempt to once again pitch at the big league level.
Thompson, still just 25, certainly picked a good organization to give him that opportunity. The Tigers have lost Michael Fulmer, Matt Moore and, quite possibly, Tyson Ross for the season. There’s a chance that Matthew Boyd could be traded in the next six days, and it’s a near-certainty that closer Shane Greene will be on the move. Detroit has numerous vacancies in a patchwork rotation that has struggled all season, and the bullpen offers even more possible opportunities. Thompson hasn’t pitched since being released in late June, so the Tigers assigned him to Class-A Advanced to begin ramping back up. But it’s not unthinkable that if he performs even reasonably well in the minors, he could emerge as a possible big league option at some point in mid August or early September.