The move was part of the Tigers' maneuverings to prepare their 40-man roster. Catcher Matt Treanor also was taken off the roster and will become a free agent. Reliever Joel Zumaya and infielder Jeff Larish were reinstated from the 60-day disabled list as required.
Infield prospect Michael Hollimon also was taken off the DL, but he was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo. Also added was reliever Jay Sborz, who would've been a Minor League free agent had his contract not been purchased.
Thames was eligible for arbitration and was thus expected to be non-tendered this offseason. From that standpoint, Friday's move makes him a free agent sooner and gives him more time to find a new team than he would've had if the Tigers waited until the December deadline to offer a contract. Nonetheless, it pretty much ends a Tigers stint that included several big home runs and torrid stretches, though they never earned him the everyday role he would've liked.
The Tigers signed Thames as a Minor League free agent after the 2003 season. He was a former highly-touted prospect with the Yankees, with whom he made his Major League debut by homering off Randy Johnson in his first big league at-bat. He hit 10 home runs in 184 plate appearances in Detroit in 2004, then stuck with the Tigers for good with a 26-homer season in 2006.
From there, he became known for torrid stretches at the plate. He tied a franchise record in 2008 by homering in five straight games, matching a mark shared by Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, Vic Wertz and Willie Horton. He had a 10-game stretch during that time in which all eight of his hits were home runs, the longest such streak by a Major League player since Mark McGwire's 11 straight home runs in 2001.
Thames seemed set to get a bump in playing time this season once the Tigers released Gary Sheffield at the end of Spring Training. A season-opening slump at the plate and a painful oblique injury in April, however, started him on a year that didn't work out the way he or the Tigers would've liked.
By season's end, his playing time was limited, and it wasn't likely to improve with the trio of Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Ryan Raburn expected to share time in the corner outfield spots and at DH next year.
Thames' 13 home runs, 36 RBIs, 258 at-bats and .453 slugging percentage this year marked his lowest totals since 2005. He batted .252 for the year.
Thames hit 99 home runs in 1,463 at-bats over his Tigers career, an average of a homer every 14.78 at-bats. He homered once every 14.52 at-bats since the start of the 2006 season, the fourth-best ratio among American League players with at least 1,000 plate appearances in that stretch.
The 32-year-old Thames, as well as the 33-year-old Treanor, will become free agents once they formally notify the Tigers that they will not be accepting outright assignments to the Minor Leagues. They'll immediately be free to sign with any Major League club.
Though the Tigers could conceivably sign Thames to a Minor League contract, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski characterized it as unlikely in an email Friday.
Treanor signed with the Tigers last December to serve as a No. 2 catcher behind Gerald Laird, but played in just four games before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. He's on track to be ready for next season, but the Tigers appear set behind the plate for next year with Laird and top catching prospect Alex Avila.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.