KBO’s Hanwha Eagles to Sign Andrew Albers
mlbtraderumors.com today reports that South Korea’s Hanwha Eagles are likely to sign former Minnesota Twin Andrew Albers to a one-year deal for around $1 million if a buy-out can be reached with the Twins. What is interesting about this deal is that Albers looks very much like a player who was just about to break through as a major league player.
Last year as a 27 year old rookie (Albers, a Canadian, had been signed with the Twins at age 25 out of the Independent-A Canadian American Association in 2011 but then progressed through the minors fairly quickly), Albers went 2-5 with a very respectable 4.05 ERA in ten starts and 60 innings pitched for the Twins.
Not many players this close to establishing themselves as major league players are willing to jump to South Korea’s KBO. However, even if Albers made the major leagues out of Spring Training in 2014, he’d likely have made only half the money he’ll make in South Korea this year if/when a deal with Hanwha is finalized.
Also, Albers didn’t pitch as well for the Twins as his ERA suggests. His run average was 5.10, and he struck out only 25 (but walked only six) in his 60 major league innings. Albers was fantastic in his first two major league starts but had only two quality starts in his final eight. However, his numbers at AAA Rochester were terrific (11-5 record, 2.86 ERA, 116 Ks in 132.1 IP, and a K/BBs ratio slightly over 3.6).
Albers’ choice is ultimately a sensible one, given his age and the fact that competition was going to be particularly intense for the Twins’ fifth rotation spot, after the Twins signed free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to big deals this off-season.
Meanwhile, the Hanwha Eagles are flush with money after receiving a $25 million posting fee for Hyun-jin Ryu a year ago, KBO salaries are strongly escalating this off-season, and the Eagles are looking to improve their talent base after finishing dead last in the 9-team KBO Champions League last season.
In my mind, this is the way the relationship between MLB, Japan’s NPB and South Korea’s KBO should work. A player like Albers potentially has more value to a KBO team than he does to an MLB team, while only MLB can meet the salary demands of a player with Ryu’s talent. Ideally, players should go where they can make the most money and help their teams the most in the process.
One of the ironies of Albers’ move to the KBO is that the Twins may well use the likely $1 million transfer fee they receive from the Hanwha Eagles to sign former KBO ace Suk-min Yoon, who is still waiting to receive the MLB contract he desires. The Minnesota Twins the major league team most often cited in media reports as interested in Yoon.