Thompson making early spring splash with Mets

March 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- To get the obvious thing out of the way first, understands the questions. He knows that his brother, Klay, is one of the most famous basketball players on the planet, a generational talent who has won four NBA championships and made five All-Star teams. It’s hard to ignore that sort of reputation.

“I like to call it an athletic family,” Trayce said this week when asked why he didn’t choose basketball himself. “For me, it was baseball from Day 1. You could ask anybody in Portland, Oregon, who we grew up with, they would have told you at 5 years old, baseball was my thing. I love the game. I fell in love with the game at a young age.”

Much like Klay, Trayce Thompson succeeded at the highest level of his sport right away, producing an .896 OPS as a 24-year-old rookie with the White Sox back in 2015. But his journey has grown rockier since then, including multiple DFAs and waiver claims, trades and other transactions. He has switched organizations 12 times over the last 10 years, most recently joining the Mets on a Minor League deal in December. Now two weeks shy of his 33rd birthday, Thompson is looking to stick in the Majors with his new team.

“I think I needed a change,” he said. “I think I needed different at this point in my career.”

So far, so good. Thompson hit a grand slam against the Nationals on Monday and then homered and doubled vs. the Cardinals two days later. Through six team games, Thompson has three times as many RBIs as any other Met.

“He’s having a great spring so far, right?” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “He’s working really, really hard with our hitting coaches. This is a guy that’s making some adjustments, being more direct to the ball being one of those. And he’s having results out of the gate. That’s important. This is a guy that we know the type of athlete he is and what he brings to the table -- a special defender, his speed, and the way he impacts the baseball. It’s good to see him getting results early in camp.”

Maintaining high production levels over the balance of Spring Training will be crucial for Thompson if he wants to make the Major League roster, considering the level of in-house competition. The Mets have four outfield roster locks in Brandon Nimmo, Harrison Bader, Starling Marte and Tyrone Taylor. DJ Stewart entered camp as the favorite for the fifth spot, thanks to his strong run after the Trade Deadline in August. But Stewart scuffled down the stretch and has an accessible Minor League option. If Stewart’s late-year struggles carry over into this spring, Thompson could plausibly beat him out for a roster spot.

Should that happen, Klay (and Trayce’s other older brother, Mychel) will be watching.

“They follow everything,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, we’re brothers. They follow everything I do, everywhere I’m at. Him and Mychey, my big brothers, they’re always texting me asking how it’s been going.”