Two S. Korean players posted for MLB clubs

December 5, 2019

 A pair of former South Korean baseball MVPs have been made available to major league clubs.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner’s Office announced Thursday (local time) that SK Wyverns’ left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun and Doosan Bears’ outfielder/designated hitter Kim Jae-hwan have been posted for 30 big league teams.

The 30-day negotiating period begins Friday at 8 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) and will end on Jan. 5 at 5 p.m. ET.

Any interested clubs may speak with the players. But if no deal is reached, those players won’t be eligible to be posted again until Nov. 1, 2020.

Kim Kwang-hyun, 31, went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA in the 2019 Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season, finishing tied for second in wins and third in ERA. Two years removed from Tommy John surgery to repair a torn elbow ligament, Kim threw 190 1/3 innings, the second-highest total of his career.

In this file photo from Oct. 14, 2019, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns reacts to a play during a Korea Baseball Organization postseason game against the Kiwoom Heroes at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Nov. 12, 2019, Kim Kwang-hyun of South Korea pitches against Chinese Taipei during the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba, Japan. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Oct. 26, 2019, Kim Jae-hwan of the Doosan Bears celebrates an RBI single against the Kiwoom Heroes in the top of the 10th inning of Game 4 of the Korean Series at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul. (Yonhap)
In this file photo from Nov. 11, 2019, Kim Jae-hwan of South Korea connects for a three-run home run against the United States in the bottom of the first inning of the teams' Super Round game at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. (Yonhap)

In this file photo from Oct. 14, 2019, Kim Kwang-hyun of the SK Wyverns reacts to a play during a Korea Baseball Organization postseason game against the Kiwoom Heroes at SK Happy Dream Park in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul. (Yonhap)

Kim was voted the 2008 regular season MVP after going 16-4 with a 2.39 ERA and 150 strikeouts. He ranked first in wins and strikeouts, and finished second in ERA, falling one category shy of a pitching Triple Crown.

He made his debut with the Wyverns in 2007 and missed the entire 2017 season following the elbow operation. In 12 seasons, Kim went 136-77 with a 3.27 ERA.

Kim was previously posted after the 2014 season under a different system. A silent auction was in place at the time, with clubs submitting a sealed, uncapped bid for the exclusive right to speak to the posted player. The San Diego Padres won that auction with a US$2 million bid, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement within their 30-day window.

The KBO had first asked the MLB to post the left-hander on Nov. 28 but had to file additional medical documents Tuesday.

The Bears asked the KBO to notify the MLB of Kim Jae-hwan’s availability Thursday, just a day before the deadline to post players. The slugging outfielder, also 31 years old, batted .283 with 15 home runs and 91 RBIs in 2019, down from his MVP-winning season of 2018, when he crushed 44 home runs and drove in 133 runs while batting .334.

KBO players must complete seven full seasons or their equivalent to be eligible for posting. Kim had fallen 47 days shy of his seventh full year at the end of the 2019 season but received 60 additional days of service time after competing for South Korea at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier12 tournament, which also served as an Olympic qualifying tournament, last month.

All players on that national team were awarded 30 days when South Korea reached the final and another 30 days when the country qualified for the 2020 Olympics.

Kim played his first KBO game in 2008 but didn’t become a full-time player until 2016. And from 2016 to 2018, he posted three straight seasons of at least .300 batting average, 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored. No other player in KBO history has posted those numbers in that many consecutive years.

Kim’s numbers took a dip this year as the KBO, in an attempt to rein in offensive explosion and achieve more balance between hitting and pitching, introduced a larger, heavier ball with less bounce off the bat.

If these players sign a deal, their KBO teams will receive “a release fee,” or a transfer fee, depending on the size of their contract.

If the guaranteed value of the deal is $25 million or less, then the release fee will be 20 percent of the contract.

If the contract is worth between $25,000,001 and $50 million, the fee will be 20 percent of the first $25 million, plus 17.5 percent of any amount exceeding that $25 million.

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