What Do KBO Baseball Players Make 2017

Before the 2014 season, I wrote a post about the highest paid players in South Korea’s KBO.  The best paid player in 2014 (Kim Tae-kyun) made about $1.4 million, and he was the only player to make more than $1M in 2014, probably including foreigners.

The last three years have seen huge growth in KBO salaries, at least considering the starting point.  Early this past off-season, Choi Hyung-woo received the KBO’s first 10 billion won contract ($8.8M at current exchange rates) for four years of service, so $2.2M per year.  Later in the off-season, former NBPer and MLBer Lee Dae-ho signed a 15 billion won ($13.2M), four year deal, so $3.4M per year.

Meanwhile, foreign veteran Dustin Nippert signed a record-setting $2.1M one year deal, becoming the first foreign player to make $2M a year.  KBO Rookies Jeff Manship, Alexi Ogando and Carlos Villanueva signed one year deals for $1.8M, $1.8M and $1.5M, respectively.

As you can see, those are dramatic increases for top players from three years ago.  However, the KBO minimum wage was only about $25,000 three years ago, and probably still isn’t much above $30,000 now, if that.

I fully expect that KBO salaries won’t increase significantly in the next year.  Choi, Lee and Nippert are all special players in the history of the KBO, and more importantly, signings this off-season were huge because the KBO hoped to get a big bump by the National Team’s performance in the World Baseball Classic, with many of the Asian games played in South Korea.

Instead, the Korean team underwhelmed again, and attendance is down 8% early in the 2017 season.  That doesn’t sound like a recipe for any more record-breaking contracts next off-season.

Explore posts in the same categories: Baseball Abroad

5 Comments on “What Do KBO Baseball Players Make 2017”

  1. Burly Says:

    According to an article I read today from the Korea Times (thanks, mykbo.net), the average KBO salary is roughly 139 million won ($124,000) and a whopping 301 current KBO players make less than 50 million won (about $45,000).

    Since there are only 10 KBO teams, presumably with active major league rosters of around 25, the numbers above must include players in the KBO’s Futures (minor) League. Minor league players in South Korea are probably fairly well paid, at least compared to U.S. players in the low MLB-system minor leagues, because the KBO has only a single minor league. However, KBO minor leaguers are almost certainly not as well paid as MLB-system AAA players with at least one day of major league service, who currently cannot be paid less than $83,000 per season.

  2. Burly Says:

    This first big signing of the 2017-2018 KBO post-season was today’s four-year $7.9 million deal by the KT Wiz to Jae-Gyun Hwang, after his unsuccessful season trying to break through in MLB. I would not be at all surprised if the year spent mostly at AAA doesn’t make Hwang a better KBO, simply be virtue of having to adapt to a different style of baseball played at a high level.

  3. Burly Says:

    Foreigners Esmil Rogers and Darif Ruf have signed with the Nexen Heroes and the Samsung Lions, respectively, each for a reported $1.5 million for 2018. Ryan Feierabend re-signed with the KT Wiz for $1.05 million, a big raise from the $380,000 he made in 2017. Merrill Kelly re-signed with the SK Wyverns for $1.4 million, receiving a raise nearly as big as Feierabend’s.

  4. Burly Says:

    Catcher Kang Min-ho signed a four year 8 billion won ($7.3 million) with the Samsung Lions. He signed a then record-setting four year 7.5 billion won free agent deal four years ago. KBO free agency has been very good to Kang.

  5. Burly Says:

    Son Ah-seop just reportedly signed a four-year 9.8 billion won ($8.93 million) deal with the Lotte Giants. Son’s free agent deal will likely be the largest of the 2017/2018 KBO off-season.

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