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Cabrera, Thames excited to join Nats' infield mix

Washington announces deals with pair of veterans
@zachsilver
January 8, 2020

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals formally added a pair of infielders on Wednesday, both excited to play for a team coming off a World Series championship. For Asdrúbal Cabrera, who returns on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the excitement was cemented during the run

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals formally added a pair of infielders on Wednesday, both excited to play for a team coming off a World Series championship.

For Asdrúbal Cabrera, who returns on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the excitement was cemented during the run to the World Series. He publicly expressed his desire to return to those in attendance at the South Lawn at the White House in November, and that wish was granted.

For Eric Thames, a newcomer who signed a one-year deal worth $4 million, a source told Feinsand, with a mutual option for 2021, the excitement of joining the Nationals has him struggling to formulate a sentence.

“I can’t even contain myself,” Thames said. “That’s how excited I am.”

Thames witnessed part of Washington's impressive postseason run, as he was playing first base for the Brewers during the Nationals' improbable comeback win in the National League Wild Card Game. He saw what he called a team that “everybody counted them out” go on to advance deep into the postseason and eventually win the World Series title.

“I will never forget that feeling of being heartbroken seeing Juan Soto’s base hit go over my head,” Thames said. “The team, you can tell they play as a unit. Naturally, I just love that. I love playing in a clubhouse where guys care about each other on top of winning. It was a no-brainer for [me].”

Both Thames, 33, and Cabrera, 34, fill holes for the Nationals heading into 2020. While the team could still add top free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cabrera can plug in at third and Thames provides a power threat in the lineup to potentially protect Soto. While Donaldson could do both of those things, Cabrera and Thames, along with the addition of Starlin Castro earlier this week, represent Plan B.

“Wherever the role is, I’m ready,” Thames said. “Whether it is a pinch-hit role or whatever my role is, I want to win. So that’s where I stand.”

Thames spent the last three seasons with the Brewers after a four-year hiatus from MLB, three of which were spent in Korea. With the Nats, he fits well in a potential platoon role, one in which he could be paired with right-handed-hitting Ryan Zimmerman, who remains a free agent. Since 2017, Thames owns a .241/.343/.504 slash line with 72 homers and 161 RBIs.

Cabrera hit .323/.404/.565 with six homers and 40 RBIs after joining the Nats on Aug. 6 last season. He could potentially play first, too, but his skill set is better suited for second and third base -- the latter if Donaldson signs elsewhere, especially.

While Cabrera did not need any outside advice to want to return to Washington -- his World Series ring was enough -- Thames got some from Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick.

When Thames played for the Blue Jays and Kendrick was with the Angels in the early 2010s, the two connected during a game. They kept in contact after, and Thames credits last year's NL Championship Series MVP as the driving force that brought him to Washington.

“Howie is one of those guys where nobody throughout the league will say anything bad about him,” Thames said. “And that shows something. A lot of personalities in the league, and nobody says one bad thing about him. He’s the dude, so if he says come here to play, [I’m there].”

Zachary Silver is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Baltimore/Washington. Follow him on Twitter @zachsilver.