Is KBO Star Eric Thames a Potential Impact Bat for the Yankees?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

29-year-old former major leaguer Eric Thames has dominated the KBO the last three years. Could he be a cheap source of power for the Yankees this offseason?

While the New York Yankees are not expected to pursue any of the big name free agent sluggers, they could look to bring in an inexpensive veteran power bat or two to complement their youngsters. One player that could provide some discount power is former big leaguer Eric Thames, who spent the last three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.

The KBO is known to be very offense-friendly, but that doesn’t mean that Thames’ production in the league can be completely dismissed. Jung Ho Kang and Hyun Soo Kim are both recent examples of KBO stars translating their success to MLB.

The 29-year-old Thames has jacked an impressive 124 home runs over the last three seasons while also swiping 64 bags in that span. He hit .317/.425/.676 in 525 plate appearances for the NC Dinos this season, and has put up similar slash lines the previous two years. He took home the KBO MVP in 2015 after a 40-40 season.

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Selected in the seventh round of the 2008 draft by the Blue Jays, Thames played in MLB affiliated ball from 2009-2013 for Toronto, Seattle, and Baltimore. After the 2013 season, Thames was claimed on waivers by the Astros, but then subsequently released to he could try his hand in the KBO.

To his credit, Thames did acquit himself pretty well during his brief big league stint, hitting .250/.296/.431 (96 OPS+) in with 21 home runs 684 MLB plate appearances split over two seasons from 2011-2012. At the very least, the power Thames showed off in the KBO appears to be legit based on his major league track record.

Something like two years and $10-12 million should be enough to land Thames. He would make a perfect place holder for Clint Frazier in left field and/or Aaron Judge in right. In addition, Thames would give New York the flexibility to explore dealing Brett Gardner or Brian McCann without sacrificing the product on the field.

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Eric Thames’ return to the U.S. is more or less flying under the radar thus far in the offseason, but he looks like one of the possible steals of a very thin free agent market.