S. Korean All-Star outfielder asks to be posted later than planned

October 27, 2015
Son Ah-seop for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (Yonhap file photo)

Son Ah-seop for the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (Yonhap file photo)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — All-Star outfielder Son Ah-seop has asked his South Korean baseball club to post him for big league clubs about a month later than initially planned to fit into his busy offseason schedule.

The Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) had announced on Sunday that they would post Son for interested Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs in early November. The Giants said they’d ask the KBO to make Son available for an MLB-wide silent auction after the conclusion of the Korean Series. If the South Korean version of the World Series goes the distance, it’s set to end on Nov. 3. KBO players may be posted starting Nov. 1 each year.

However, Son told reporters Monday evening that it will be “impossible” to begin the posting process in early November because of his national team duties.

Son met the press after the national team for the upcoming Premier 12 tournament gathered at a Seoul hotel Monday. The inaugural competition kicks off Nov. 8, and if South Korea reaches the final, it will play in the game on Nov. 21.

There will be another hurdle afterward: Son is scheduled to begin his four-week basic military training on Nov. 23. Son has received an exemption from the mandatory military service after winning the 2014 Asian Games gold medal, and athletes who earn their way out of the service that way must still complete the four-week training. Pro athletes usually do so during the offseason.

“I am sure the team will make the right decision,” Son said. “But I don’t think I could sign a major league contract while undergoing my military training. I think the best case scenario would be to be posted sometime in December, but I am just waiting for the team’s response.”

The Giants had planned to post Son early because of a dilemma that they’d faced earlier. One other Lotte player, infielder Hwang Jae-gyun, had also asked to be posted this offseason. Under the KBO rules, a team can only post one player at a time. If that player fails to sign a big league contract, only then can a second player from the same club be posted.

“I fully understand there isn’t much time left,” Son added. “And whatever the decision the team makes, I will accept it.”

The Giants said they chose to put Son in the market first based on his superior performances over the past five years, among other factors.

Son, a career .323 hitter who has improved his defense in right field, has averaged 12 home runs, 69 RBIs and 16 steals over the past five years, with a .333 average. Hwang has averaged 12 home runs, 70 RBIs and 18 steals with a .289 batting average over the same span, though he did set career highs this year with 26 home runs and 97 RBIs.

Son, 27, has hit .300 or better in each of his past six seasons, while Hwang, a year older, has had just two .300 seasons. Son is a four-time Golden Glove winner — awarded to players based on their overall performance, not solely on defense — while Hwang still hasn’t won one.

A KBO player becomes eligible for posting after completing seven seasons or their equivalent. Once a player is posted, MLB teams can submit bids in a silent auction for the right to negotiate with him. If the player’s original KBO club decides to accept the highest bid, then that MLB club will have 30 days to work out a deal with the player.

If the player signs with that big league team, then his KBO club will pocket the posting fee. If the player and the MLB team can’t come to an agreement, the player will be taken off the market and won’t be eligible for posting until the following year.

Two South Korean players have reached the majors via posting. In 2012, left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin signed a six-year, $36 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which bid $25.7 million for him.

In January this year, infielder Kang Jung-ho inked a four-year, $16 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, after the Bucs put in a bid of $5 million.