Kia Tigers Nix Pitcher’s Move to Major Leagues

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

South Korean pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong will not be playing in the major leagues after all as his team has rejected the winning bid for the player that was made by an unnamed American ball club.

Yang’s current team, the Kia Tigers, made the announcement on Tuesday. While the exact amount of the winning bid for the 26-year-old and the team that submitted it haven’t been officially revealed, varying reports have mentioned that the offer was made by either the Minnesota Twins or the Texas Rangers and that the total sum was believed to be around $1.5 million.

Although Yang adamantly expressed his interest in pitching abroad next season, the Tigers said they rejected the bid as the amount was far below what they had expected for their franchise player. Two years ago, the Dodgers made a bid of $25.7 million to the Hanwha Eagles for Hyun-Jin Ryu. But Yang, after posting a 62-42 record with a 4.33 in eight seasons with the Tigers, is widely rated below Ryu, who joined the Dodgers in 2012 after seven seasons with the Eagles, in which he posted a 98-52 record with a 2.80 ERA.

The left-hander could still seek a move to Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball this winter with a permission from the Tigers. However, he will not be eligible to play for a team in the U.S. until he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.

Unlike the Tigers, another Korean baseball team, the SK Wyverns, recently accepted a posting fee of $2 million from the San Diego Padres for its star pitcher Kim Kwang-hyeon. The negotiation between the Padres and Kim is currently underway.

Trying to identify quality Korean pitchers in their domestic league has been a complicated task this year as no player posted an ERA below 3.00 for the 2014 season. Kim, whose expected to sign with the Padres soon, is the only Korean-born pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization whose ERA this past season was under 4.00. Five other pitchers besides Kim who accomplished the feat were international players.