How I believe the SK Wyverns accepting the $2 million bid for Kwang-Hyun Kim will/should improve the relationship between Korean baseball and MLB
– Ryan Sadowski
I am writing this article in regards the two million dollar posting fee won by the San Diego Padres for South Korean pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim. As of last night, the SK Wyverns have officially accepted the bid. This gives the Padres exclusive rights to negotiate with Kim and his representation for the next 30 days. It was reported earlier this week that the SK Wyverns were largely disappointed by the posting fee and may not allow the Padres to negotiate with Kim. It was rumored that SK was expecting a posting fee of ten million dollars. Although the fee probably appears to be low to the Korean public and the SK Wyverns, I am writing this piece from a biased perspective to show why the SK Wyverns accepting this offer will make the KBO stronger in the future.
Since Jae-Kuk Ryu signed with the Chicago Cubs out of high school in 2001, Korea has not had a high school amateur player reach the Major Leagues. In recent years, it is well noted that Major League teams have had a difficult time signing high school amateur players out of Korea. It is also well noted that Korean high school amateurs have not adjusted well to professional baseball in the United States.
Since 2012, Major League teams have only signed two Korean amateur players, Oakland Athletics catcher Seong-Min Kim and New York Yankees shortstop Hyo-Jun Park. There are a few other Korean amateurs currently in the minor leagues that are considered Major League prospects. Hak-Ju Lee is a promising Major League shortstop prospect that has been slowed down since he had a serious knee injury in 2013. Ji-Man Choi is another Korean prospect that has been hampered by a failed drug test, serving a 50-game suspension during the 2014 season. Many articles were written about Choi’s imminent call-up to the major leagues were inaccurate and reportedly perceived to be a form of propaganda to many major league executives.
South Korean players currently in the minor leagues
- Hak-Ju Lee (Tampa Bay Rays)
- Ji-Man Choi (Seattle Mariners)
- Seon-Gi Kim (Seattle Mariners)
- Dae-Eun Rhee (Chicago Cubs)
- Jae-Hoon Ha (Chicago Cubs)
- Ho-Young Son (Chicago Cubs)
- Chan-Jong Moon (Houston Astros)
- Seong-Min Kim (Oakland Athletics)
- Hyo-Jun Park (New York Yankees)
- Kyeong-Duk Kang* (Baltimore Orioles)
- Jeong-Hyeon Yoon (Baltimore Orioles)
- Eric Sim* (San Francisco Giants)
- *Came to the U.S./Canada during their teens, selected in the Major League draft
Currently, Hyun-Jin Ryu is the only player to come from the KBO to the major leagues through the posting system. His twenty-five million dollar posting fee was immediately seen as an extremely high number by the U.S. media at the time. Many perceived it to be a marketing ploy by the Los Angeles Dodgers to target its large Korean population in L.A. At this point, Ryu has exceeded all expectations set by the U.S. media, and if his production remains consistent through the duration of his contract, his signing will be viewed as one the best free agent signing of the 2012-2013 off-season.
In recent years, the MLBPA and Major League owners have negotiated an international amateur player signing cap without any representation from Korea (or any other country). This has made it more difficult for teams to be able to afford to sign high school players out of Korea. In 2014, the Yankees spent significantly over the cap to be able to sign shortstop Hyo-Jun Park, with a $1.1m bonus. They will now face a stiff penalty and have their ability to sign foreign players be restricted for the next 2 years.
I believe that Korean baseball fans would like to continue to see players like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kwang-Hyun Kim and Jung-Ho Kang play professionally in the KBO early in their careers. Upon honoring their contract in the KBO, fans would also like to see the best Korean players get an opportunity to move on to the Major Leagues.
Since the overwhelming majority of Korean amateur signings have not been successful in the major leagues, allowing these KBO stars to cross the pacific through the posting system will make it more likely that all of the best Korean high school amateur players will play in the KBO. Players will have an opportunity to earn more money in the KBO than they would by playing in the minor leagues, they will enjoy a better quality of life, and they will still have an opportunity to play in the Major Leagues at a relatively young age (mid to late 20s). If players like Ryu, Kang, and Kim are successful in the major leagues, teams will not be able to afford them as high school amateurs due to the international bonus cap. If Korean high school amateurs play in the KBO, they will have an opportunity to represent their country in the Asian games and the WBC. That will give players an opportunity for exemption from the 2-year mandatory military service.
List of Korean amateurs that have signed with a Major League team and failed to reach the majors
- Jae-Yun Kim (Arizona Diamondbacks)
- Sung-Ki Jung (Atlanta Braves)
- Tae-In Chae (Boston Red Sox)
- Byeong-Hak An (Boston Red Sox)
- Seung-Jun Song (Boston Red Sox)
- Jung-Min Seo (Boston Red Sox)
- Jae-Young Kim (Boston Red Sox)
- Chul-Hee Oh (Boston Red Sox)
- Jin-Young Kim (Chicago Cubs)
- Kyung-Min Na (Chicago Cubs)
- Dong-Yub Kim (Chicago Cubs)
- Su-Min Jung (Chicago Cubs)
- Hae-Sung Guk* (Chicago Cubs)
- Si-Mon Lee (Chicago Cubs)
- Yoon-Min Kwon (Chicago Cubs)
- Jin-Ho Shin (Kansas City Royals)
- Pill-Joon Jang (Los Angeles Angels)
- Young-Il Jung(Los Angeles Angels)
- Kyung-Hwan Choi (Los Angeles Angels)
- Tae-Hyuk Nam (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Sug Chung (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- In-Kyun Kang (Minnesota Twins)
- Hyeong-Rok Choi (Minnesota Twins)
- Hyun-Wook Choi (Minnesota Twins)
- Jae-Hyung Jang (Minnesota Twins)
- Jae-Hwan Seo (New York Mets)
- Seung-Hak Lee (Philadelphia Phillies)
- Il-Yeop Kim (Philadelphia Phillies)
- Chang-Yang Choi (Philadelphia Phillies)
- Byeong-Il Kim (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Young-Jin Jung (San Diego Padres)
- Yoon-Hee Nam (Texas Rangers)
- Tae-Kyung Ahn (Texas Rangers)
- *contract voided after failed physical
If Kwang-Hyun Kim and Jung-Ho Kang outperform their posting fees as significantly as Hyun-Jin Ryu has, there will be opportunity for the KBO and MLB to negotiate a new posting system for KBO players. This system should allow the KBO to become more profitable by keeping the best young players in the country and selling the best veteran players at a maximum value outside of the country.
I hope that Kwang-Hyun Kim and Jung-Ho Kang thrive in the Major Leagues and that their success will continue to help baseball in Korea improve.