Somebody Wins Bidding on LHP Hyeon-Jong Yang
The second left-handed starter to come out of the KBO this off-season, Hyeon-Jong Yang, has been posted and a winning bid submitted. The questions, however, by whom and for how much are still being worked out.
Originally, the Twins were said to be the winning team, with a winning bid amount somewhere between $700K and $1.5 million. Today, mlbtraderumors.com reports that the winning team may have been the Rangers for about $1.5 million.
The $1.5 million seems just about right, given that the other KBO lefty, Kwang-hyun Kim, received a posting bid of $2 million from the Padres a week or so ago and the relative KBO statistics of the two pitchers. I had read an English-language Korean media report suggesting that Yang had better stuff and thus better upside than Kim, but if the $1.5 million winning bid is correct, MLB teams apparently considered the stats more important than the scouting reports.
It is also an open question whether Yang’s KBO team, the Kia Tigers, will accept this paltry bid. From what I know about the current value of KBO players to their teams, I would think that Yang has to be worth more to the Tigers than $1.5 million. Yang wants to try his luck in MLB, however, we’ll see if the Tigers consider that a good enough reason to let him go.
From what I have read, I understand (but am not entirely certain) that the SK Wyverns have decided to accept the $2 million bid on Kim, again mainly because Kim wants to play in MLB. I very much doubt that Kim is worth less than $2 million to the Wyverns even if they only have another year or two of his services before he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
This is one of the reasons why we don’t see more South Korean and Japanese players in MLB. Until the players reach true free agency after nine seasons, all but the very best are worth more to their respective teams than the posting amount they receive for letting them leave a year or two early.
Neither Kim nor Yang will get an MLB contract any better than they’d make in the KBO if they agreed to a three or four year deal this off-season with their current teams. They won’t make the big money unless they prove to be major league successes and sign a second MLB contract a few years from now. The situation for these players is nothing like that for Cuban defectors, for whom a $1 million MLB contract is easily 100 times what they made playing in Cuba.
On that topic, Cuban super-stars Yulieski Gurriel and Alfredo Despaigne, who played briefly but very successfully in Japan’s NPB in 2014, are rumored to be receiving offers of as much as $2M or $3M to return to Japan for closer to a full season in 2015. The Cuban government’s decision to let them play in Japan in 2014 was basically to reward them for not defecting and to give them an incentive not to defect in the future. The $200,000 or $300,000 each of them made playing in Japan this past season (less whatever percentage the Cuban government received) goes a long way in Cuba.
While allowing them to play in Japan gives these elite players a strong incentive not to defect and provides the Cuban government with some badly needed foreign exchange, it has to open up a whole can of worms, in terms of who in Cuban society gets to go abroad to make the big money for some period of time. For example, you’d have to think a lot of Cuban doctors would relish the opportunity to travel abroad and get paid market-rate salaries.