Eric Thames, former Mariner/Blue Jay/Oriole must like Korean cooking; he has gone nuts with the bat since heading across the Pacific in 2014. In three seasons his WORST BA/OBP/SLG and HR line looks like this: .317/.422/.676 and 37. Now that wasn't his worst season, but the worst individual numbers he had in any one season. He's been pretty dang good! The worst single season he had was in '16. His OPS was only 1.101! He's hit 37, 47 and 40 HR's.
OK, so the KBO isn't the AL East.
But Jung Ho Kang, now of the Pirates and with a .838 MLB OPS in two seasons, didn't come close to hitting like Thames in Korea. Kang averaged an .886 OPS in 9 KBO seasons. If you only look at his age 25-27 seasons (immediately before he came this way), he ran OPS's of .973-.876-1.198. Even if you call it a draw with he and Thames (and it really isn't) then Thames projects nicely, doesn't he?
Hyun Soo Kim just went .302-.382-.420 in his rookie season with the Orioles. He averaged .895 in Korea. His best season was 1.037 and he had another at .979. In ten seasons he topped out at 28 HR's.
Dae-ho Lee played in the KBO from 19 to 29. He had 3 seasons between 1.011 and 1.111, all from ages 25-29. Hit 44 HR's once, was never north of 29 other than that.
OK...there isn't a perfect translation from the KBO to MLB bigs: Byung Ho Park just OPS'ed .684 in his rookie stint with the Twins. He finished with three Korean seasons of 1.039, 1.119 and 1.150 with 37, 52 and 53 HR's. His Korean numbers were the most Thames-like. You can hold that against Thames if you wish.
But Thames isn't an unknown on this side of the Pacific. He OPS'ed 96 in two seasons (age 24-25) with the Jays and the M's: .250-.296-.431 w/21 HR's in 683 PA"s. He wasn't chopped liver.....er.....Kimchi, when in the bigs. Thames also sports a .312-.389-.5-6 line in 870 AAA PA's. Granted, 472 of those were with Las Vegas. But he does have some hitty credentials, on two continents. He really hasn't hacked it up anywhere and he went all Babe Ruth on those poor Korean pitchers. His reality TV show will be titled, "Has Bat, Will Travel"
One of the things I like about him is that he learned to take a BB.. He walked only 46 pts in the MLB but has done so at a 101 pt clip in Korea. Not all of those can be intentionally walks, can they?
He wasn't a great COF glove guy while here, accumulating -2.8 dWAR in his 181 games. Ugh, I suppose. But, ooh, the bat hints
at 놀라운 things. (Surely you recognized the Korean word for wonderful, didn't you?)
He's on the radar screen of a bunch of GM's, I imagine. MLB-TR even considered if he would be one of the top 50 FA's in the off-season. He probably will. The going rate for the Korean sluggers mentioned above is about $3M per. Well, Lee was older and cheaper. But there you have the baseline for a Thames contract: 2-4 years. $2M-$5M, front to back of the contract. Something like that. I'll bet it's a 2-3 year deal with an option.
Thames OPS'ed .754 vR in two big league years. Before he found his Kimchi-fueled inner-Popeye, mind you. Seth Smith just OPS'ed .791 vR in two seasons for us. Thames wasn't much behind that when he was here., pre-Korean explosion. Is he ahead of him now?
Back when he was an M, I thought he had a whippet-quick bat. It looks like he has an eye to go with it now.
Here he is hitting a homer off of Ervin Santana back in his Blue Jay days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1ZQqauRNQk
And here he is taking a tough pitch off of Rodney (nice to see it from this end) and dinking it into RF for a GW single while he was Mariner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jePopetdi1A
He'll be in the bigs next year. Not sure he fits with us, unless we let both of Aoki and Smith go and sign a guy with a COF flashy glove and a good bat to man the other corner. But I wouldn't mind see him as a Mariner again. The guy can hit some.