Thames is four years removed from his major league career, during which he batted .250/.296/.431 with 21 home runs and a .727 OPS in two seasons with the Blue Jays and Mariners. While he showed flashes of power potential in five minor league seasons, drawing a .305 average between the Rookie and Triple-A circuits, he was unable to replicate those results on a major league stage. After his release from the Astros’ Triple-A Oklahoma in 2013, the outfielder signed with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Thames dominated in his three-year stint with the Dinos, batting over .300 in each season and racking up a cumulative 124 home runs and 379 RBI. An MVP title, All-Star nomination, and Golden Glove Award capped a masterful 2015 season, and he maintained his power-hitting approach in 2016 with a .317/.425/.676 line and another 40 home runs.
If the 30-year-old chooses to return to MLB in 2017, he’ll be expected to bring those skills into play against faster pitches and roomier ballparks. Crasnick quoted an executive within MLB who believes that, given some room for adjustment, Thames’ success overseas could still net a multiyear deal with teams looking to him to fill some combination of first base, outfield, and DH.
You have an element that’s going to be skeptical,” the executive said. “He’s already played over here, and he wasn’t a tremendous success the first time. But you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this guy a late bloomer?’
Look at some of the money that Cuban players have gotten. 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.