What Do Foreign Players in South Korea’s KBO Make?

Here’s an article from South Korean media source Joonjang which lists the five biggest one-year salaries foreign players have earned in South Korea’s KBO.  While there is always some controversy regarding what KBO teams are actually paying their “mercenaries,” i.e., foreign stars, Joonjang’s numbers look accurate based on what I’ve heard reported before.

Esmil Rodgers reportedly received the largest one-year deal at $1.9 million last year.  However, his team, the Hanwha Eagles cut him half way through the 2016 after injuries limited him to a 4.30 ERA in six starts, meaning most likely that Rodgers received no more than half of the $1.9 million.

Foreign players are reportedly limited to one-year deals in the KBO, which makes them a relative bargain compared to KBO domestic free agents, the best of whom are now receiving deals of about $8 million over four years.  However, it was widely reported that Eric Thames signed a two-year deal for $3 million total before the 2015 season.  Given the season he had in 2015 when he was KBO’s best hitter, the fact that he only made $1.5 million in 2016, and didn’t jump to Japan’s NPB or back to MLB for more money tends to confirm that he did indeed have a two-year deal with the NC Dinos.

Hector Noesi and Dustin Nippert, who were two of the KBO’s three best starters in 2016, are expected to make $2 million each in 2017.  Nippert in particular deserves the raise.  He was the KBO’s MVP in 2016, led the Doosan Bears to their second consecutive Korean Series victory, and he’s now put in six full KBO seasons, a tremendously long time for a foreigner in a culture and league that highly value long years of service.

Add to these facts that the Doosan Bears are probably the KBO’s wealthiest team, and you would think that they’d have no problem giving Nippert a record-setting deal.  You would then be guessing wrong.  Doosan Bears’ officials have been carping and back-biting Nippert in the South Korean media over his agent’s salary demands, which is more than a little unfair given the loyalty and performance Nippert has shown the team over the last six years.

It would be a shame if Nippert’s relationship with the Bears went south due to the team’s stinginess and lack of class.  However, in the KBO, unlike in NPB, the teams own their foreign players’ rights for nine seasons, which does not allow Nippert to seek a deal with another KBO team.

Nippert could jump to the NPB, but going into his age 36 season, he’s old to be making the jump to a better league.  Also, Nippert married a South Korean woman in 2015 after divorcing his first wife several years ago, and he has publicly stated that he wants to end his professional baseball career with the Doosan Bears.

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9 Comments on “What Do Foreign Players in South Korea’s KBO Make?”

  1. Burly Says:

    Hyoung-woo Choi just signed the KBO’s first 10 billion won ($8.5 million) four-year free agent deal with the Kia Tigers. All the more reason to think that Hector Noesi and Dustin Nippert will receive at least $2 million for 2017.

  2. Burly Says:

    Hector Noesi re-signed with the Kia Tigers for the same $1.7 million he made in 2016. As one of the league’s best starters in 2016, I expected him to get a raise.

  3. Burly Says:

    Veteran KBO ace Kim Kwang-hyun elected to remain with his current team, the SK Wyverns, on a four-year deal that will pay him 8.5 billion won (about $7.3 million). It’s thought that he might have been able to match Choi Hyoung-woo’s 10 billion won deal had he been willing to sign with another KBO team.

    The signing likely puts to rest any possibility that Kim will pitch in MLB for at least the next four years.

    • Burly Says:

      Wilin Rosario re-signed with the Hanwha Eagles for a reported $1.5 million. However, Nick Evans, who also hit well in the KBO in 2016, re-signed with the league champion Doosan Bears for only a reported $680,000.

  4. Burly Says:

    David Huff re-signed with the LG Twins for $1.4 million after pitching well after being brought in at the half-season mark last season.

  5. Burly Says:

    Eric Hacker re-signed with the NC Dinos for an even $1 million doe 2017. Hacker went 13-3 helping the Dinos reach the KBO Championship Series for the first time. However, he missed 6-8 starts with a mid-season injury, which may have been the reason his salary only increased $100K from 2016, in spite of a relatively long and successful KBO track record.

  6. Burly Says:

    Established MLB pitcher Alexi Ogando reportedly just signed a $1.8 million deal with the KBO’s Hanwha Eagles. The Eagles probably overpaid by at least $300,000, since Ogando looked in 2016 like a pitcher with not much left and would have received only a minor league deal to pitch in North America in 2017.

    My expectation is that Ogando will start in the KBO, since it is hard to imagine a KBO team paying $1.8 million for a relief pitcher.

    It’s now well into January, and the Doosan Bears have still not announced the re-signing of Dustin Nippert. My guess is that Nippert wants a $2 million contract for 2017, and the Bears don’t want to give it to him, even though he certainly deserves it. I would think that Ogando’s deal will make it harder for the Bears to argue that Nippert doesn’t deserve $2 million, given Nippert’s exceptional six years of service to the Bears.

  7. Burly Says:

    It was a long time in coming, but the Doosan Bears just announced re-signing Dustin Nippert for 2017 at a record-setting $2.1 million. That’s a $100,000 more than I thought Nippert would end up getting, and it may explain why the deal took so long to iron out. Still, NIppert certainly deserves this contract after the 2016 season he had and the money now being committed to KBO free agents.

    Established MLBer Jeff Manship signed a reported $1.8 million deal with the NC Dinos, joining Alexi Ogando as well compensated new imports to the KBO.

  8. Burly Says:

    The Hanwha Eagles reportedly signed long-time MLBer Carlos Villanueva for $1.5 million for 2017, still more evidence that KBO teams are willing to pay more this year for better foreign talent.


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