BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox offense has surged in recent days, but they could still use more power to help replace the retired David Ortiz. It turns out that Brewers slugger Eric Thames was almost that guy.
According to a story by ESPN’s Scott Lauber on Tuesday, Red Sox senior vice president of player personnel Allard Baird traveled to South Korea to watch Thames play in the Korean Baseball League. Thames smashed 124 home runs in three seasons in Korea after he couldn’t stick in the major leagues, winning two league MVP awards. He returned to the U.S. in the offseason to sign a three-year deal with the Brewers, while the Red Sox opted for Mitch Moreland at first base and moved Hanley Ramirez to DH.
The 30-year-old Thames has become one of baseball’s biggest surprises in the early part of the 2017 season with 12 home runs, second in the National League behind only the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman. He has slugged nearly half as many home runs as the entire Red Sox team (27).
Lauber added that Red Sox officials declined to further discuss their scouting of Thames, but sources described the trip as “mostly due diligence.” Still, it’s unlikely the Red Sox would have sent anyone all the way to South Korea if their interest in Thames wasn’t legitimate.
Needless to say, Thames would have been a welcome addition to a Red Sox lineup in need of pop in the early-going. Fortunately for their sake, Andrew Benintendi is emerging as a legitimate power threat in the cleanup spot.
Xander Bogaerts recently made controversial, candid remarks about the absence of Ortiz and the effect that it’s had on the rest of the lineup. But the offense has certainly proved what it’s capable of with their performance in the last two games (28 runs on 31 hits).
Thames may not have necessarily replaced Ortiz’s leadership or larger-than-life presence, but he certainly could have replaced the home runs.