More Former Major Leaguers Sign with Asian Teams
South Korea’s KBO is growing by leaps and bounds. More proof of this fact is the three signings announced in the last two days.
Scott Richmond, who pitched briefly for the Toronto Blue Jays last year, reportedly signed with the Lotte Giants for a reported $600,000. Dana Eveland, who pitched 32.1 innings for the Baltimore Orioles last year, reportedly signed a $675,000 deal with the Hanwha Eagles. Finally, Aneury Rodriguez, who pitched for the Houston Astros the last two seasons, signed a deal with the Samsung Lions for an as yet unreported amount.
Richmond looks like the kind of pitcher KBO teams usually sign. He’s 33 in 2013, and he’s coming off a mediocre year as a starter for the AAA Las Vegas 51’s in the Pacific Coast League (5.61 ERA, which was still good enough to finish with an 11-7 record and fairly good strike out and walk ratios).
However, both Eveland and Rodriguez look a cut above the American pitchers who have joined KBO in recent years. In fact, I’m surprised Eveland wasn’t recruited by a Japanese NPB team. Eveland pitched well at AAA Norfork (2.79 ERA in 14 starts) and reasonably well for the Orioles (4.73 ERA mostly in relief), and he’ll only be 29 years old in 2013.
Aneury Rodriguez had a dreadful year in 2012, posting a 6.60 ERA for the AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks. However, Rodriguez was only 24 years old last year, and he’s got major league stuff. He just doesn’t have major league (or last year even AAA) command yet. I don’t know why the Astros apparently gave up on him, although it’s possible that he became a minor league free agent based on service time once the Astros dropped him from their 40-man roster.
Along with the signing of Doug Slaten by the SK Wyverns earlier this week, it seems clear that KBO teams are determined to compete with Japan’s NPB for the best available 4-A pitchers. If the reported Richmond and Eveland contract numbers are correct, it puts them near the very top of KBO player salary scale.
Meanwhile, NPB’s Yakult Swallows locked in their best foreign players with long (for NPB) contract extensions to Wladimir Balentien, Lastings Milledge and Tony Barnette. Balentien reportedly signed a three-year $7.5 million dollar extension covering the years 2014 through 2016; Milledge reportedly signed a three-year $4.4 million deal with a mutual option for 2016; and Barnette reportedly signed a two-year $3.2 million deal.
In my mind, these are great moves for the small-revenue Swallows. They have identified good young players (Barnette will be the oldest next year at age 29) who could potentially be stars in NPB for years, and once those players proved that they had what it takes to succeed in Japanese baseball, the Swallows locked them in to long-term contracts before they could flee to the high-revenue Yomiuri Giants, Hanshin Tigers or SoftBank Hawks for more money. If the players in question stay healthy, the Swallows will definitely get their money’s worth.