Kia Tigers reject bid for posted pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong

November 26, 2014
Yang Hyeon-jong (Yonhap)

Yang Hyeon-jong (Yonhap)

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The Kia Tigers on Wednesday rejected a bid submitted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) club for their posted pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong, saying they weren’t happy with the amount of money put up for their southpaw ace.

With the decision by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) team, Yang, who was made available for interested big league clubs in a silent auction earlier this month, can’t be posted again until Nov. 1, 2015.

The KBO first notified the Tigers of the result of the bidding last Saturday and the Tigers had four business days in which to decide whether to accept the winning bid. The KBO had earlier said it planned to inform MLB of the Tigers’ decision by 7 a.m. Friday in Korean time.

Had the Tigers accepted the bid, the highest bidder would have been awarded exclusive negotiating rights with Yang for 30 days.

The Tigers immediately made it clear that they weren’t satisfied with the bid, though the exact amount of money was not disclosed. The club also insisted that because the bidding amount was so low, Yang wouldn’t have had much leverage in salary negotiations with the big league club if the Tigers had accepted the bid.

The Tigers’ brass and Yang have met four times since the team received the bid, including once on Wednesday, but the two sides ultimately couldn’t narrow their differences. The player kept prodding the club to let him pursue his big league dreams and the team didn’t budge an inch.

“Yang maintained that he wanted to go play in the majors, but he also seemed to understand our position,” said an official with the Tigers. “He accepted the team’s final decision.”

When posting Yang, the Tigers had said they would try to respect Yang’s dream and would accept a bid as long as it was “not preposterously low,” without specifying any monetary figure.

Since the Tigers rejected the bid, the amount of the winning bid or the club that submitted the highest bid will not be revealed.

Early reports said that the Minnesota Twins had won the bidding war. An informed industry source also told Yonhap News Agency that the Twins had put in the highest bid. However, a South Korean article claimed that the Texas Rangers had beat out the Twins by submitting a bid of more than US$1.5 million.

Though Yang can’t be posted again this year, he is still eligible to go to Japan with the Tigers’ approval, should clubs there show interest and begin contract talks with him. The Tigers may post him for the second time in 2015. Otherwise, Yang will have to wait until after the 2016 season in the KBO to gain unrestricted free agency, whereby he can sign with any MLB club without going through posting.

Yang, 26, was the second KBO player to be posted this month. The first was Kim Kwang-hyun, left-handed pitcher for the SK Wyverns. The San Diego Padres put in $2 million for Kim and the Wyverns accepted the bid. The Padres and Kim have until 5 p.m., Dec. 11 (Eastern Standard Time) to work out a contract.

If they reach an agreement, the Wyverns will pocket the $2 million that the Padres had submitted in posting. If not, the Wyverns won’t receive any money and Kim won’t be able to get posted until Nov. 1 next year.

Before the Tigers this year, three other KBO clubs had rejected MLB bids submitted in posting. In 1999, the LG Twins turned down a $600,000 bid for pitcher Lee Sang-hoon. Lee later signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent. In 2002, the Doosan Bears rejected a bid of $25,000 for pitcher Jin Pil-joong, and the Samsung Lions did the same on a $650,000 bid on pitcher Lim Chang-yong. Lim played briefly for the Chicago Cubs last year after signing on as a free agent.

In 2014, Yang went 16-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 29 starts, spanning a career-high 171 1/3 innings. He struck out 165 and walked 77.

Yang was named the inaugural winner of the Choi Dong-won Award, named after a late former All-Star pitcher to recognize the best South Korean pitcher each season based on their win-loss records, quality starts and innings pitched, among other categories.

For his career, Yang has gone 62-42 with a 4.33 ERA, along with 748 strikeouts and 455 walks in 866 2/3 innings.

The KBO is expected to have a third player posted next month. Kang Jung-ho, hard-hitting shortstop for the Nexen Heroes, has said he will ask his club to post him around mid-December. After hitting 40 home runs and driving in 117 runs, both single-season records for a shortstop in the KBO, Kang has attracted a great deal of interest from big league scouts.