MLB teams are getting creative in trying to get better for next season. Three teams: The Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays are looking into signing Eric Thames, who has been playing his baseball in Korea over the last three years.
Thames has played for KBO team NC Dinoes since 2014, hitting 124 home runs while batting .317 or better in each of the three seasons. An outfielder in his short MLB time, he played first base in South Korean baseball. In his second major league stint, due to his impressive power showing in Asia, he might be used as a designated hitter a lot more than before, while splitting time with an outfield or infield position, or sharing it with another hitter. Thames is a lefty, so he could be put in a platoon with someone who struggles against certain sides, like Wil Myers of the Padres.
Thames didn’t do much during his two years in the majors, playing 181 games for the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. He batted .250 and posted a .727 OPS while hitting 21 home runs in 684 plate appearances. There was nothing outstanding about his defense for better or worse, but the first base position could come in handy if he doesn’t adjust to outfield duties right away, which would be understandable considering how far away he’s been from that role while playing in Japan.
It’s hard to project what kind of contract Thames will get, but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him land a two or three year deal worth $5-6 million a season. Unknown foreign prospects are landing those deals, so someone like Thames, who is 30, should be able to sign such a contract without a problem. Again, he’s been away from the majors for quite some time, but his .720 slugging from Korea is already impressing quite a few teams. What’s left now is for Thames to finally decide he’s going back to the majors, something he hasn’t decided on yet.