WASHINGTON (AP) — Eric Thames still thinks about the eighth inning of the NL wild card game, when Milwaukee held a two-run lead against Washington and was four outs from advancing.
“I’ll never forget that feeling of being heartbroken, seeing Juan Soto’s base hit over my head,” Thames said. “”I thought we had this game.”
Three months after the Nationals scored three runs on Soto’s hit for a 4-3 win over the Brewers and went on to the franchise’s first World Series title, Thames joined the team that knocked him out. Washington finalized a $4 million, one-year contract with the first baseman, a deal that includes a $3 million salary this year and a $4 million mutual option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.
“Everybody, the whole media was against them throughout the world, everybody counted them out and they still fought back,” Thames said. “That definitely shows how the team model, how their team atmosphere was.”
Washington also completed a $2.5 million, one-year deal to keep infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera. He has the chance to earn $500,000 in performance bonuses: $125,000 each for 200, 300, 400 and 500 plate appearances
The 33-year-old Thames had 25 homers and 61 RBIs with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, his third season with that team. The lefty batter averaged 24 homers per season with the Brewers after returning to the majors from playing in South Korea.
Thames credited postseason star Howie Kendrick for helping recruit him.
”He kind of reached out to me. I’ve talked to him for years,” Thames said. “He always talked about how fun the clubhouse was. … You could just tell they played as a unit. So naturally, I love that, love playing in a clubhouse where guys care about each other on top of winning. So it was a no brainer for myself.”
The 34-year-old Cabrera was a big part of Washington’s surge to the World Series, hitting .323 with six homers and 40 RBIs in 38 games after signing with the Nationals in August. He played primarily second base for the club, but also appeared at third base and first.
That was the switch-hitter’s second stint with the club. He joins free agent Starlin Castro, top prospect Carter Kieboom, Wilmer Difo and postseason star Kendrick as players who could be used at second or third base.