Thames, 33, had to sign a minor league contract with the Yankees last season just to find work in America. After putting up a 122 OPS+ last season he probably wouldn’t have to go through that again, but it is very possible that he could get both more money and years by going to Japan.
The Yankees might not need Thames back in 2011 either. They loved the production they got from him, but Jorge Posada is expected to be the everyday DH next year and as a switch hitter they won’t need Thames for that position.
They also lost faith in him completely to play in the outfield about halfway through last year. Beyond that, by the end of the 2010 season the Yankees had gained enough faith that lefties Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson that they used them against tough lefties in the playoffs.
So while Thames had a great season last year and mashed lefties, there may not be a spot for him in 2011. Instead if he did re-sign with the Yankees it would be purely as a pinch hitter off the bench. If he’s offered more years, more money, and more playing time in Japan he may take it.