Thompson joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in Cincinnati on Tuesday after the Detroit Tigers traded him on Monday for cash considerations. With superstar Muki Bates out for several weeks due to injury, Thompson could join the right field alongside Eddie Alvarez.
This promotion marks Thompson’s third stint in the Major League in four chaotic seasons. Since 2018, Thompson, who previously played for the Dodgers from 2016 to 2017, has been hired five times, given free agency three times, demanded waivers and traded twice and then been released once.
This season, Thompson, who played six games for the San Diego Padres in April and May, hits a combined .305/.365/.721 with 17 wrecks in 170 games in Triple A.
“I spent two years there, and I’m not at all ashamed of this…I was the worst player in baseball, in my opinion,” Thompson said. “Sure, I was just as talented as everyone else. But this game isn’t about talent, it’s about performance at a major league level.
“But I’m glad it happened because I needed to know who I would be. Adversity kind of defines you. It makes you break down or defines you.”
Thompson, 31, has faced plenty of challenges in his 13-year career. Youngest son of Los Angeles Lakers star Michael Thompson, Trace Thompson’s early performance in the minor league did not match the hype he got in the second round (2009). He spent more than six seasons in the palace before reaching the majors.
But once he arrived, Thompson thrived. He struck for strength and played solid defense in all three of the White Sox’s outside positions in a good debut season in 2015. The Dodgers loved Thompson, who grew up in Orange County, enough to ask to be included in the three-team deal that brought Todd Frazier to the White Sox from Cincinnati Reds. Thompson continued to play well for the Dodgers, packing 13 homers and playing good defense for a team with world championship ambitions, until he fractured two vertebrae in his lower back in July 2016 and missed the rest of the season.
Although Thompson’s back was healthy by the 2017 season, he struggled to strike. Bad habits formed by initially playing through injury significantly reduced offensive performance. He appeared in 27 games for the Dodgers but spent most of the season in Triple A. The following year, Thompson was assigned the task at the end of spring training, which led to a chaotic period in his career.
The Yankees demanded him on April 3 and gave up on him almost immediately. Oakland then claimed to have played three games for A before becoming the DFA and being traded to the White Sox. Playing in 48 games for the White Sox, he was DFA in late June and spent the rest of the season at Triple A.
“When you play for a team like the Dodgers, it’s time to be productive,” Thompson said. “They need players to play well.
“It would be different if I was limited or wasn’t really the same type of athlete. But physically I felt great. It was really frustrating, especially in the middle of the season, not knowing what was going on and throwing you into the big slam fire. … It was a lot to deal with. With him. It’s been a very low year for me personally.”
Excited to prove he can still stay, Thompson said he was more focused than ever in 2019. He had a solid season at Triple-A Columbus, racking up 24 players, but didn’t get a chance with Cleveland and was released On August 1st.
Thompson signed with the Diamondbacks in 2020 and was in the middle of his best spring training ever when the pandemic hit. He spent the entire season at the alternate location.
The Cubs acquired him from Arizona in May 2021 and had an amazing season at Triple-A Iowa. After two defensive players were injured, Thompson was promoted in September. He hit four house hurdles with a 1,114 OPS in 35 board appearances. Performance only enhanced Thomson’s design.
“It’s been a really good year for me and has kind of shown me that I can still do it,” Thompson said. “I am happy that I am where I am now. I don’t think I would be in this place now if I hadn’t spent those few years.”
However, there were more challenges ahead.
He signed with San Diego after the lockdown ended and immediately produced at Triple-A El Paso, which earned him a promotion in late April when Will Myers was injured. But his experience lasted six games and he was in the DFA again.
“I had a lot of sense of urgency, and I probably tried to do too much,” Thompson said. “But that’s on me….I feel like I’m eventually going to get in a groove there, but that’s what it is.”
If only he knew what it would lead to.
Thompson signed a minor league deal with Detroit on May 19, the day after his brother scored 15 points and was more than 20 points in 34 minutes against the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Finals in the NBA.
One of the quirks in the post-pandemic minor league table is teams playing a series of six games each week from Tuesday through Sunday. As a result, Thompson rarely checks the schedule a few days ahead of schedule.
When he received his next itinerary on the road on June 9, Thompson noticed Toledo playing its next series at Triple-A Worcester, on the road from Boston. He soon realized that if the NBA Finals were long past – the Boston Celtics were leading 2-1 in a series – Game 6 would be played in Boston.
After winning Golden State’s Game 4 at TD Garden on June 10, Trayce felt he would be celebrating with his family the following Thursday. Clay is not only part of the organization, but their older brother, Mychel, became a coach earlier in the year.
A week later, Triess reached a quick 10-4 Toledo win over Worcester. After the match, he raced to his hotel to collect his belongings before taking a 45-minute ride with an Uber to Boston for party night.
“Everyone wants to be in person as opposed to on the phone, FaceTime, or Skyping,” Mychal Thompson said. “Anytime you can find a way to get there physically… which makes it so special.
“It was perfect timing.”
The Thompsons family is a close-knit family that has celebrated each other’s success over the years.
Trayce was fortunate enough to attend Klay’s return to the NBA on January 9 after 941 days between games, a “very emotional night” he found satisfying. But last week was the first time that Tries had the chance to attend one of his brother’s championship celebrations. He’s always done what he wants and a constant baseball calendar hasn’t given him a chance to be there.
“I was talking to my uncle about it. I knew they were going to win Game Six,” said Treys Thompson. “For me personally and being selfish, I haven’t experienced any of the NBA moments. To line up all this stuff, it felt like it was meant to be.
“It was a long night, but it was one of the best nights of my life.”
It probably meant more because Trayce was celebrating his older brother’s first title after the lengthy mental and physical grind that kept Clay out of action for nearly three years. Returning from a torn ACL injury that ended his career in the 2019 Finals, Klay Thompson tore his Achilles tendon in November 2020. Tries remembers driving from Irvine, California, to the Bay Area that night to support his brother. He was always seen as Iron Man, not sure what he would say.
Nobody knows what to expect when he returns. Clay, of course, was second to Golden State as he played 230 minutes in the NBA Finals and averaged 19 points per game in the postseason.
“I learned a lot just by watching it,” said Tracee Thompson. “Seeing him go after her day in and day out… I was so proud and happy for him.”
Now, it’s Trace’s turn.
On Monday, the Dodgers traded for Thompson, who had an upcoming clause on withdrawing in a minor league deal with Detroit.
He’s not sure how long he’ll be there, but Thompson is confident he belongs in the big business. He loves his newfound view of the game and understands why the cliché – controlling what you can control – is so important. His mental approach is different and many swing adjustments over the years make him better prepared to take damage from fast, high balls.
But he is not sure how long he wants to continue pursuing the dream and comes to terms with the fact that he is 31 years old in Triple A. At the moment, he thinks he can produce for a winner and that is enough to keep him.
“The battery is very charged,” Thompson said. “I am so excited to prove myself in the major leagues. I feel I am in a good position both physically and mentally to do so. But at the same time, I don’t play this game to play Triple-A baseball. I love the game, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I don’t like you The game again. When you’re 31 in Triple A you can see that sometimes. As long as this opportunity is within my reach and I can knock on the door and control my destiny, as I did earlier this season with San Diego, I’ll bet on Myself.
“It all comes to an end at some point,” Thompson said, “but I want to make sure I can look in the mirror and say I’ve done everything I can.”
After the Warriors’ Championship Parade wrapped up on Monday, Michal Thompson flipped into the Toledo game to see Trice play. He was shocked to see that his son wasn’t in the squad and texted to find out why only to discover Trayce was packing up his apartment after a trade.
Mychal Thompson is confident Trayce will exhaust every ounce of energy to make his dream come true. He appreciates the determination Trayce has shown through thick and thin.
Mychal Thompson, a big Dodgers fan, said his son’s comeback is “a dream come true.” He also indicated that it might lead to another family celebration in November.
“His perseverance, toughness of mind and belief – continuing to believe in himself and setting goals to get to great companies and survive,” said Michael Thompson. “He has a great work ethic and believes in himself and will not give up.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better than this, to play here in Los Angeles for a great team like the Dodgers, who have a chance of making it to the series. Who knows? If Trayce can stay around, maybe we’ll go to another show.”
(Photo: Matt York/The Associated Press)