Free agent S. Korean reliever Oh Seung-hwan to pursue MLB career

November 10, 2015
Closer Oh Seung-hwan was the most dominant relief pitcher for Korea.(Yonhap)

Closer Oh Seung-hwan was the most dominant relief pitcher for Korea.(Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — After a successful stint in Asia, a free agent South Korean pitcher Oh Seung-hwan will pursue a big league career this winter, a source close to the right-hander said Tuesday.

The source said Oh, who has pitched the last two seasons for the Hanshin Tigers in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), will travel to the United States this week to possibly begin contract talks.

“He will stay there for about 10 days,” the source added. “Multiple clubs are showing interest in him. And this trip will be an opportunity for him to start some negotiations.”

The 33-year-old right-hander has led the Central League in saves in each of the past two seasons. Despite a leg injury that cut his season short in September, Oh tied Tony Barnette with 41 saves this year, along with a 2.83 ERA, striking out 66 in 69 1/3 innings. Last year, his first in the NPB, Oh recorded 39 saves with a 1.76 ERA while striking out 81 in 66 2/3 innings.

Oh is the career leader in saves in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), having recorded 277 saves in nine seasons with the Samsung Lions.

The pitcher signed a two-year deal with the Tigers before the 2014 season. Another source close to the player said Oh has no plans to travel to Japan for the time being, despite reports out of Japan that have claimed the Tigers were trying to meet with Oh to discuss an extension.

“It’s news to me that Hanshin and Oh Seung-hwan will meet for a contract,” the source added. “He will concentrate on landing a major league contract.”

Oh is the second South Korean free agent out of Japan to declare his intent to play in the majors. Last week, the reigning Japan Series MVP Lee Dae-ho opted out of his contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to also seek a big league job.

The power-hitting first baseman had two homers and eight RBIs in the Hawks’ five-game Japan Series win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, after hitting 31 homers and driving in 98 runs in the regular season.