Free agent outielder Eric Thames has drawn interest from the Padres, Rays and Athletics (as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle previously reported), according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Thames, who has starred in Korea since 2014, previously saw major league action with the Blue Jays and Mariners from 2011-12.
Thames, 30, was so-so in his two-year major league stint, hitting .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs in 684 plate appearances, but he could cash in this winter thanks to his phenomenal showing with the NC Dinos of the hitter-friendly KBO. Thames swatted at least 37 homers in each of the previous three seasons, including 47 in an MVP-winning 2015, giving him a combined 124 since he immigrated to Korea. All told, he has slashed a videogamelike .348/.450/.720 in 1,634 plate appearances and also added 64 stolen bases on 78 attempts since leaving America.
Assuming he returns to the States, MLBTR projects a two-year, $10MM deal for Thames (from the Rays, in fact), but one National League executive told Crasnick he could fare even better than that.
“Look at some of the money that Cuban players have gotten,” said the exec. “What’s the difference here? I think somebody is going to bite, and he’ll get a contract for two years and $12 million, or three years and $15-18 million.”
Thames, a California native, acknowledged that he has contemplated another major league go-around.
“Yes, the thought has crossed my mind a few times,” Thames told Crasnick via email. “I’m wondering about how my new mindset could transfer over. Next year feels like light years away! Who knows where I will end up.”
Re-signing in Korea or heading to Japan are also possibilities for Thames, who might not exclusively play the outfield in a second major league stint. Thames moved to first in Korea, notes Crasnick, and the lefty-swinger would likely spend time there, in the outfield and, if he signs with an American League team, at designated hitter. With Wil Myers at first and no DH, the Padres would have to to utilize Thames in the outfield, while the hitter-needy Rays and A’s would have more flexibility in deploying him.