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Why Marcus Thames in left for the Dodgers beats the alternative

January 18, 2011 |  6:57 am

Know how they say everything is relative?

Well, relatively speaking, the Dodgers outfield is better today after coming to terms with Marcus Thames than it was yesterday.

There wasn’t a whole lot remaining on the outfield free-agent market, so signing Thames was about as good as signing any of the other leftovers.

Yet this black hole in left was the Dodgers’ own doing. They got themselves into this quagmire, so it is only because previous options were so poor that adding Thames counts as something of a modest upgrade.

He does have a little pop, something they desperately need, though it’s hard to get excited about a Jay Gibbons-Thames platoon, if indeed that is their plan.

The two are remarkably similar. Born just four days apart in March, both have reasonable power but something sadly below reasonable defense.

Here are their lifetime stats, the right-handed Thames against lefties and the left-handed Gibbons against right-handers:

                 AVG    OBP    SLG
Gibbons    .259    .319    .464
Thames    .264    .333    .505

Last season, Thames hit a career-high .288 with 12 home runs and 33 runs batted in in 237 at-bats for the Yankees. He also struck out 61 times, which is Matt Kemp territory.

Plus, in recent years, he has been used more as a designated hitter than outfielder. Between Gibbons and Thames, left field figures to be a nightly defensive adventure.

The Times’ Dylan Hernandez
reports the Dodgers are also close to signing right-handed hitting outfielder Gabe Kapler to a minor-league contract, which looks like their biggest reach of the off-season. One more in their ongoing series of what-do-we-have-to-lose signings. Other than some spring at-bats for the kids.

All this doesn’t bode well for Xavier Paul, who is out of options and looks headed for a trade. It can’t do anything for Trayvon Robinson or Jamie Hoffman, either.

This also makes turning Casey Blake into an outfielder a seemingly distant Plan B, though still ahead of Plan C -- crossing fingers and hoping Tony Gwynn Jr. hits something better than the .204 he batted last season, or even using Jamey Carroll as a semi-regular outfielder.

All those options figure to remain in play should Gibbons-Thames struggle. Even struggling, of course, can prove relative.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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