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Going into Tuesday night’s game, Lane Thomas, 27, and with two years of team control after this season, ranked fourth in the National League in hits (with 116), fifth in batting average (a .293 AVG), was tied for 4th in doubles (26), and ranked 10th in the NL in runs scored (67). He also led the National League (and was tied for second in MLB) with a career-high 10 outfield assists on the year (he added his 11th early in the game, throwing out another run at second base).
Acquired in a deadline deal in 2021 (straight up from St. Louis for Jon Lester), Thomas was second on the team in fWAR before Tuesday’s game (2.4 fWAR), behind only his teammate Jeimer Candelario, who’s playing out a one-year deal and seems to be the most likely to be dealt at the upcoming (August 1st) Trade Deadline, with a bounce-back season so far for the third baseman (.257/.335/.486, 28 doubles, 16 home runs, and 2.9 fWAR through 93 games and 350 plate appearances).
“Everyone on expiring [contracts] — those decisions are fairly easy,” GM Mike Rizzo said in a chat with reporters during a recent road trip to Chicago. “That was the decision we made with Max [Scherzer in 2021]. That factors into it. You have a good player, a good All-Star-caliber type of player in Lane Thomas, and you have him for two more seasons after this. Sure, that makes it much more difficult to trade. That’s code word for ‘We’d have to get a good return.’”
And a “good return” in Rizzo’s opinion, for a relatively young, affordable ($2.2M this season), controllable outfielder having a breakout season? Another team has to see what the GM in D.C. sees in Thomas for any deal to make sense.
“The tricky part is getting back the value you want for them,” Rizzo explained. “I see Lane Thomas as having an All-Star first half of the season. He’s got tools, he’s young, and he’s a terrific player.
“If another team views him only as a part-time or bench player, we won’t have a deal.
“But if somebody views him as the way I view him and the way our staff views him,” he said, “... then we’d have a conversation.”
As recently as last September, of course, Rizzo was talking about Thomas as a potential key piece on a future championship contender.
“I think that some people kind of looked sideways at us when we said that Lane Thomas was a piece of the future,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies late last season.
“We always say the next championship-caliber club — a guy like Lane Thomas should be a part of it, because he’s a good hitter, specifically against left-handed pitching, he’s really coming around against right-handed pitching, he can play good defense, and he runs the bases well, he’s really fast.
“That’s a piece of a championship-caliber club.”
So ... if you’re GM Mike Rizzo and some team out there offers a “good return”, would you try to trade Lane Thomas before August 1, 2023’s Trade Deadline?