The Tigers announced Thursday that they’ve signed outfielder Trayce Thompson to a minor league contract. He’ll head to their Triple-A affiliate in Toledo. Thompson was designated for assignment by the Padres earlier this month and elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A El Paso.
Thompson, 31, went 1-for-14 with the Padres earlier this year prior to his DFA. He’s seen big league time in parts of six seasons, batting a combined .205/.280/.397 in 640 trips to the plate. The younger brother of NBA star Klay Thompson, Trayce is a former second-round pick (White Sox, ’09) with an obvious blend of power and speed, which was on full display when he hit .295/.363/.533 in 135 plate appearances.
Thompson has ripped 26 home runs and swiped 11 bags in about a season’s worth of MLB plate appearances and has also walked at a solid 9.5% clip. However, since that terrific rookie showing back in 2015, he’s posted a grisly .180/.258/.360 batting line with a bloated 31.1% strikeout rate. He’s capable of playing all three outfield spots and has enticing raw tools, but Thompson has never put things together over a lengthy sample in the big leagues.
The Tigers could use some extra outfield depth at the moment with Austin Meadows, Victor Reyes and top prospect Riley Greene all injured. The Detroit outfield currently consists of Robbie Grossman, Derek Hill, Daz Cameron and multi-position utility options Harold Castro and Willi Castro. Backup catcher Eric Haase also has some limited experience in left field.
That list of injuries makes it sensible both that the Tigers would seek out some additional depth and that Thompson would find the opportunity to his liking. There’s a clearer path to a big league return in Detroit than he might’ve had on a deeper and healthier roster in San Diego.