Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called Trayce Thompson on Tuesday afternoon.
By that point, Thompson already had learned that his tenure as a Dodger was likely over: The team designated him for assignment, which meant the other 29 teams had a chance to claim him on waivers. Roberts still wanted to reach out to Thompson, a 27-year-old outfielder who was a well-liked member of the clubhouse the previous two seasons.
“He saw the depth that we had,” Roberts said before the final game of the Freeway Series. “[Thompson] understood the situation, seeing the guys we were playing. Still, the finality of when you’re going to be designated for assignment, that always jolts you a little bit. But Trayce handled it like a professional.”
The departure of Thompson accelerated the finalization of the Dodgers’ roster for Thursday’s season opener. With Thompson out of the fold, the final two spots will be contested among outfielder Joc Pederson, outfielder Andrew Toles and catcher-third baseman Kyle Farmer. The favorites appear to be Farmer and Pederson, although Toles has outperformed Pederson this spring.
Toles and Pederson are left-handed hitters. Thompson is a right-handed batter, which limited his opportunities. The team features a trio of right-handed outfielders in Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Matt Kemp, with utility man Enrique Hernandez also deserving opportunities. Thompson was out of minor league options, but Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, still described the decision to cut him loose as “extremely difficult.”
Thompson, son of former Laker Mychal and brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay, made a splash in the first half of 2016. Acquired from the Chicago White Sox the previous winter, Thompson hit 13 homers in 80 games. His production sagged as he dealt with a back injury, which eventually was diagnosed as a fracture.
Slowed by rehabilitation, Thompson played sparingly in the majors last season. He hit .122 in 27 games and finished with a .483 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Thompson posted a .633 OPS in exhibition games this spring.
The team has a 10-day window to see if Thompson clears the waiver wire. If no other team claims him, the Dodgers can offer him an assignment to triple-A Oklahoma City, where Thompson spent the majority of 2017. Roberts expected another team to claim Thompson.
“That’s our hope,” Roberts said. “He did a lot of good things for us. What a tremendous baseball player, person.”
As a corresponding move, the Dodgers claimed Cory Mazzoni, a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher, from the Chicago Cubs. Mazzoni has a 17.28 earned-run average in 14 big league appearances. He spent most of last season in San Diego’s minor league system. The Cubs claimed him off waivers in November.
The Dodgers optioned Mazzoni to Oklahoma City. They were likely to try to put him on waivers to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Walter pays up for Puerto Rico
“It means the world to me,” Hernandez said. “This is something that I’m extremely proud of. Seven months [after the hurricane hit] and my little island is still desperately in need of a lot of help. For Mark to keep his word and donate that much money, it’s awesome.
“To be able to put a lot of families back into some homes, that was definitely the most important thing for us. This is something that we’ve been working on since the World Series ended.”
Hernandez played a vital role in helping the Dodgers reach the World Series. He hit three home runs in the clinching Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Cubs. Before the game, Walter reportedly offered to donate to the cause in Puerto Rico if Hernandez was able to reach base.
Hernandez insisted his memory was hazy of the exact terms of the wager. He wore a grin as he spoke.
“I don’t recall that conversation very well,” he said. “He said ‘Let’s win this game. If we win, I’m going to make a pretty big donation.’ And then, it worked.”
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes