Archive for the ‘KBO’ category

KBO Changes Salary and Contract Rules for Foreign Players

September 11, 2018

South Korea’s KBO has announced new rules for salaries and contracts for foreign players.  Most significantly, there will now be a hard cap of $1M on all compensation (salary, signing bonus, incentives, options) paid to foreign players signing their first KBO contract.  The apparent purpose of the cap is to prevent the wealthiest KBO teams from signing the best 4-A/former MLB major league players willing to play in South Korea.

The new rule also applies if a KBO team releases a foreign player and the foreign player signs with a new KBO team.  This means that if a foreign player and his old team cannot reach an agreement on a new contract, and the KBO team releases the player and signs another foreigner, the released foreigner can only sign for a maximum of $1M with any other KBO team, at least for his first season with the new team.

The new rules may or may not allow foreign players signing a second contract with the same KBO team to receive multi-year deals for the first time — the yonhap article is not entirely clear.  Until now (maybe), foreign players could only be signed to one year deals.  KBO teams got around the one-year limit by the creative use of option clauses, which allowed them to lock in players for a second season, while guaranteeing the foreign player a good payout if the option was not exercised.

The real reason for the new rules are almost certainly to contain the monies that KBO are currently expending on the three foreign players each team is allowed each season.  I tend to think the KBO is making a mistake, because it may prevent KBO teams from signing some of the best available foreign players.

In recent seasons, the KBO has been able to compete with NPB to sign the best available foreign players, because KBO teams have often been willing to pay more for first contracts that NPB teams have been.  For example, Hector Noesi likely signed with the Kia Tigers instead of an NPB team because the Kia Tigers offered him more than $1M for his first KBO contract.  Under the new rules, the Hector Noesis are more likely to sign with NPB teams going forward because NPB teams can and do pay more money for veteran foreign stars than KBO teams can.

I also think that foreign players who star in the KBO will have more incentive to jump to NPB if they are unable to agree upon second contract terms, because, even if released, they won’t be able to sign with another KBO team for more than $1M.  I don’t see how discouraging the best available foreign players from signing with your teams is the best strategy for a league like the KBO that still has plenty of room to grow in terms of fan interest.

If veteran foreign stars can now sign multi-year deals, then I do expect that there will indeed be plenty of two and three year deals as there are in NPB, since the best foreign players can threaten to jump to NPB.  If so, then its likely that KBO teams are simply pushing back the money to foreign players who have at least one successful KBO season, i.e., foreign players will be overpaid in their third or fourth KBO season as a result of guaranteed multi-year contracts rather than in their first KBO season.

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Independent-A Run-Down

August 21, 2018

Here are some comments on the top prospects at this moment in the Indy-A Leagues.

27 year old Bennett Parry signed with the CPBL’s ChinaTrust Brothers as their back-up foreigner more than two weeks ago.  He still leads the Atlantic League in strikeouts as I write this.

Dave Kubiak also escaped the Atlantic League for the warmer climbs of Mexico.  Alas, his brains have been beaten out his first two Mexican League starts.

Blake Gailen is the Atlantic League’s best hitter for the umpteenth time, but at age 33 this year, there is nowhere for him to go except Mexico, where he has played successfully before and thus may not be interested in playing there again.  Otherwise, go to Mexico, Blake.

Former major leaguer David Rollins pitched his way out of the Can-Am League to the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, but, alas, he got bombed in his first Pacific Coast League start.

Just turned 27 year old outfielder David Harris deserves another shot with an MLB organization.  Still 22 year old Martin Figuero also deserves another shot with an MLB organization, although he’s come down to earth since I wrote about him six weeks ago.

In the American Association, 25 year old Dillon Thomas did not go gentle into the good night of his career after the Rockies released him.  He’s leading the AA in with a 1.021 OPS.

Also 25 year old Dylan Tice earned his way back into the Mets’ organization.  Just turned 28 year old Jay Austin has earned his way up to the Mexican League, where so far so good.

28 year old Tommy Collier needs to pitch in the winter leagues this off-season to boost a move up to a better league, but I sure wouldn’t want to pitch in Venezuela again this winter.

The Wichita Wingnuts’ Travis Banwart, now 32, might more properly be pitching in the CPBL for a lot more money, what with his three seasons of KBO experience, but he’s actually from Wichita, which complicates the matter.  Banwart is one of the best American pitchers not to have pitched at all in the majors.

If you want to read more about Indy-A players who recently signed with major league organizations, go to the Atlantic League’s, the Can-Am League’s and the American Association‘s respective websites.  The Indy-A Leagues scream from the rooftops every time one of their boys signs with a major league organization — that’s what gets most of their boys to play for peanuts.

Tiago Da Silva

August 19, 2018

Tiago Da Silva has recently caught my eye.  He’s a 33 year old Brazilian who is currently a top starter in the Mexican League, and he has had quite a baseball odyssey.

Born in Sao Paolo, Da Silva has some Japanese ancestry — there are more Brazilians of Japanese ancestry than you might think and are probably part of the reason why baseball is more popular in Brazil than you might think.  Sao Paolo is something of a Brazilian baseball hotbed, what with Yan Gomes, Paulo Orlando and Andre Rienzo also hailing from Brazil’s largest city.

Presumably, Da Silva made a name for himself in Sao Paolo’s amateur baseball circuit, but didn’t attract any attention from MLB organizations because he’s a small right-hander — at age 33 he’s listed as 5’9″ and 180 lbs — he was almost certainly a lot lighter when he was prospect age.  However, Da Silva could pitch: from the video I’ve seen, he has an unusual, deceptive motion and gets good movement on his pitches.

After playing for Brazil in the 2003 Baseball World Cup, he was signed by and played briefly in Taiwan’s CPBL.  He got bombed in limited work, and ended up taking his baseball talents to Italy.  The baseball cognoscenti know that Italy and Holland have had professional baseball leagues for quite some time, although regular season schedules are typically only 42 to 60 games and played mostly on the weekends.

He was extremely successful there for T&A San Marino, going a combined 41-12 over his last six seasons, as the San Marino club went from a .500 team to a perennial powerhouse.

Da Silva pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League successfully in the winter of 2013-2014 and then moved up the Mexican League in 2014.  He was good enough to get a shot with the Blue Jays’ organization in 2015 pitching at the A+ (mostly) and AA levels, where he struck out 28 batters in 22.2 IP while allowing only 16 hits and four walks.  However, he was a small, 30 year old right-hander that season and returned to Mexico for the summer of 2016.

Da Silva was a top closer in the Mexican League in 2016 and 2017, combining for 49 saves, which is impressive when you remember that Mexican League teams only played about 110 games per season those years.

He’s become a starter again in 2018, and he’s been equally good in that role.  It has me wondering whether a CPBL team will give him another shot in 2019.  Da Silva is making a reasonable living pitching his summers in Mexico and his winters in Venezuela, but with things falling apart in Venezuala, a return to Taiwan might look a whole lot more appealing than it did even a year or two ago.

Da Silva is a great example of a player who has carved out a reasonably successful professional career without ever coming close to pitching in the MLB major leagues, or even the major leagues in Japan or South Korea.  He has a career record at all professional levels published by baseball reference of 81-34 with 83 saves and 2.47 ERA.  He likely hasn’t made enough money to retire on, even in Brazil, but he has probably lived comfortably at least since returning to Mexico in 2016.

Da Silva’s professional success may also have something to do with his smarts.  He speaks five languages — Japanese, Spanish, Italian, English and his native Portuguese.  If nothing else, he’ll probably be able to find paying work as a translator when his playing career is over.

MLB and KBO Agree on New Posting System

July 13, 2018

MLB has reached an agreement on a new posting system regime with South Korea’s KBO.  The new system provides that KBO players who are posted get to sign with any MLB team they choose, which in practical effect will mean for the highest bidder 90% of the time, with the former KBO team getting a percentage of the contract amount as follows.

For the first $25M guarantee of the contract, the former KBO team gets 20%.  For the next $25M guarantee, the KBO team gets 17.5%.  For any guaranteed amount above the first $50M, the KBO team gets 15%.

The upshot is that on a contract that guarantees the South Korean player $100M, his former KBO team would receive $16.875M.  When Hyun-jin Ryu signed with the Dodgers, his former KBO team, the Hanwha Eagles, received 71.5% of the contracted amount (a $25M+ posting fee compared to Ryu’s $36M guarantee over six seasons.)  The new regime obviously means the player will get a far larger percentage of his true value to the top MLB bidder.

The next Ryu Hyun-jin will cost well more than a $61M+ layout, but it’s anyone’s guess when the next Ryu will come along.  KBO teams aren’t going to make a great deal of money posting their biggest stars on any kind of a regular basis under the new system, but $16.875M is still a lot of money to a KBO team when that $100M player finally comes along.

Two years ago, I proposed an adjustment to the Japanese NPB posting regime, which while different from the one just adopted above, was designed to accomplish the same thing: getting Asian teams to post their best players sooner in order to receive a bigger payout.

If a KBO team has a MLB-caliber player which it posts in the off-season before the player’s age 27 season, that player will command a far higher MLB guaranteed contract than the same player posted when he’s a year short of the nine full seasons it takes to become a KBO (or NPB) true free agent.  That means, under the new posting regime, the KBO team makes a lot more money posting the player a year or three sooner than they absolutely have to.

The same kind of regime would work for NPB postings, except that the percentages the NPB team would receive would have to be higher (maybe 33%, 25% and 20%), because the best NPB players are worth more money to their NPB teams than the best KBO players are worth to their KBO teams, given the difference in league revenue streams.  If MLB teams try to squeeze NPB teams too much, there is simply much less reason for an NPB team to post its best players until it absolutely has too (the off-season before the off-season in which the player is a true free agent).

In fact, I think my proposal is better if the goal is to get NPB teams to post superstars a year or three early, since it directly ties NPB team compensation to earlier posting.  The benefit to the new MLB-KBO regime is that it could mean big money for the next NPB team to develop the next Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka or Shohei Ohtani who commands a contract well in excess of a $100M guarantee.

Dustin Nippert Records 100th KBO Win and 1,000th Strike Out

June 29, 2018

Former Texas Ranger Dustin Nippert yesterday became the first foreign pitcher to win 100 games and strike out 1,000 batters in South Korea’s KBO.  Nippert can now claim to be the undisputed king of foreign pitchers in the KBO’s 37 year history to date.

In 2016 at the age of 35, Nippert went a remarkable 22-3, one of the greatest single season won-loss records in the league’s history.  The Doosan Bears rewarded him with a record-setting contract for a foreign player in 2017, a reported $2.2 million.

Nippert was good in 2017, going 14-8 with a 4.06 ERA in an extreme hitters’ league, but the Bears apparently wanted another season closer to 2016 for the money they were paying him.  Instead of re-signing Nippert for 2018, the Bears brought in younger foreign KBO ace Josh Lindblom for approximately $750,000 less than they paid Nippert in 2017.

The move looks like a wise one for the Bears.  About half way through the 2018 season, Lindblom is 9-2, tied for second in the circuit in wins, his 2.94 ERA is 3rd best among qualifiers and his 108 Ks are third most.   Meanwhile, as their second foreign pitcher the Bears brought in KBO rookie Seth Frankoff, who is currently 12-0 with a 2.71 ERA and 83 Ks in 89.2 IP.

Nippert had a hard time finding another KBO team willing to sign him because of his salary expectations, but eventually caught on late in the off-season with the bottom-feeding KT Wiz, who gave Nippert a reported $1 million contract, a big drop from his 2017 salary and only a little more than what the Bears are paying Frankoff to be their second foreign starter.

Nippert got off to a slow start for the Wiz this season, but he’s now pitched six consecutive quality starts, and his record stands at 6-4 with a 4.67 ERA.  The Wiz are in 9th place in the ten-team KBO with a dreadful 30-47-1 record (as in Japan’s NPB, there are 12 inning draws in the KBO) as I write this.  With that in mind, Nippert’s 6-4 record looks pretty good.

Nippert is 37 this season, and we’ll have to see how he pitches in the second half and whether he wants to return to the Wiz for another season in 2019.  Two years ago Nippert stated his desire to finish his KBO career with the Bears, but that didn’t happen.  Nippert married a Korean woman a few years ago whom he met in Korea, so he may well decide to continue to pitch in the KBO as long as he can.

Nippert’s first marriage may have ended in part because of the time away he spent pitching in South Korea.  For American players playing in Asia, their families often do not join them until mid or late June each season after the children have finished their school years in the U.S.  Presumably, they then leave in late August to go start up school again.  That can be hard on marriages, particularly since ballplayers have a reputation for running around when the wife is away.

With a Korean wife now and no new children yet of school age, that isn’t as much of a problem for Nippert now.

Go East, Jabari Blash!

June 29, 2018

It’s definitely time for Jabari Blash to take his talents to East Asia.  He turns 29 in six days, and he’s currently playing in AAA for the Salt Lake City Bees, where his 1.237 OPS leads the Pacific Coast League by 214 basis points.  Salt Lake City has always been a great place to hit, but even so.

There’s still an outside chance that Blash could establish himself as MLB major league platoon player, but at his age it’s looking increasingly unlikely.  He’s now had exactly 300 major league plate appearances in which he’s slashed .194/.317/.320 including a 2-for-18 stint with the Angels this year.

It’s time for Blash to wake up and smell the coffee.  The talent is there, as attested by his career .918 minor league OPS in slightly more than 3,000 plate appearances, but it is time to realize that most major league teams are going to see him as a 4-A player who is just too old to give a real shot unless a couple of major league outfielders get hurt.

If I were an NPB or KBO General Manager, I’d be falling all over myself trying to convince Blash to sign a contract.  Asian teams love power, and Blash has that in spades.  Players of Blash’s proven AAA abilities tend to do very well in Asian baseball unless they just can’t adjust quickly to playing abroad.

Blash was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and attended high school there for at least some time before coming to the U.S. proper (he went to a Junior College in Miami), so he’s already had to adjust to a new culture.

The Doosan Bears needed a new foreign player after Jimmy Paredes washed out, but elected to sign 31 year old Scott Van Slyke for a reported $320,000 for the second half.  Van Slyke was the safe pick based on his more extensive MLB major league experience, but Paredes’ significant major league experience didn’t pan out this year in South Korea.

The Bears are in a pennant race, so I can see why they probably thought Van Slyke would be a safer bet to hit the ground running, but in my mind Blash’s upside would have been worth $500,000 for half a season and the likely much higher transfer fee that the Angels would likely have demanded for Blash.

Van Slyke has a lot of MLB major league experience because he has dramatic platoon splits.  4-A players with dramatic platoon splits can be valuable major league platoon players.  Asian teams, who are looking for 4-A players who can play every day are almost always better off selecting a player with small platoon splits who aren’t worth as much to MLB major league teams.

Blash has big platoon splits in a limited sample size at the major league level, but he obviously has hit right-handed pitchers well enough in the minor leagues.

My Favorite Minor League Stars 2018

June 8, 2018

Every year I like to write a post about minor league players whom few have ever of, but who have either carved out relatively successful professional careers or have simply just kept playing because of their abilities and love for the game.

Mike Loree and Josh Lowey.  Two pitchers who never reached the major leagues, but have carved out professional success because they can pitch.  Loree is currently one of the all-time foreign greats in Taiwan’s CPBL, and Lowey is arguably the top starter in the Mexican League (LMB) at this moment.

Loree is in his 6th season in the CPBL (and 7th in Asia), and he was arguably the league’s best pitcher in each of his first four full seasons in Taiwan.  This year at age 33 his 4.22 ERA is currently only 5th best in a four team circuit, but he leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, with 90 in the latter category.  The CPBL is an extreme hitters’ league, and there is still plenty of time to put himself back on top of the league’s pitchers.

Josh Lowey is in his fifth season in LMB and his ranking in the Mexican League is so similar to Mike Loree in the CPBL that it’s scary.  Lowey is also 33.  His 2.58 ERA is 6th best in a 16 team circuit.  He leads the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, with 79 in the latter category.  Both Loree and Lowey had shots a few years back in South Korea’s KBO, but neither made it despite showing something.

I’m hoping that Josh Lowey pitches in the CPBL next year (it’s a step up from LMB), so I can see what the two do pitching in the same league.

Cyle Hankerd and Blake Gailen.  Two more guys who have never reached the MLB majors (or come particularly close) but who can play.  Hankerd, who was once a 3rd Round draft pick out of USC, is in his fifth season in LMB.  His .949 OPS is currently 22nd best in the league.

Gailen is back in the Atlantic League this year, the best of the Indy-A’s.  His .813 OPS is currently 16th best in an eight team circuit.  Gailen sometimes gets signed mid-year to play for an MLB organization’s AA or AAA team when someone gets hurt — he had a .871 OPS in 167 plate appearances for AA Tulsa in the Dodgers’ system last year — but he’s spent most of the last seven seasons in the Atlantic League.

Gailen spent two winters playing in Mexico and part of the 2014 season playing in LMB.  However, he apparently prefers to pay for peanuts in the U.S.  For players like Hankerd and Gailen, LMB and the top four Caribbean winter leagues (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela) are the end of the line, because CPBL teams no longer sign hitters and South Korea’s KBO teams want hitters with at least a little MLB major league experience.  Both Hankerd and Gailen are also 33 this season.

Chris Roberson.  Now in his age 38 season, he’s the American King of Mexican baseball.  He’s played eight seasons in LMB and at least 13 seasons in Mexico’s even better winter league (MXPW or LMP).  His .967 OPS is currently 18th best in the 16 team LMB.

Roberson is almost certainly the best paid foreign player in Mexico, and I’d guess he makes $90,000 to $100,000 a year in both leagues combined in terms of total value of his compensation (officially, LMB’s foreign players cap at $8,000 per month in salary for a 4.5 month season, but rumors have it that the perks are huge; LMP probably pays better on a monthly basis, but it’s only a 2.5 month season).  Roberson played enough in the MLB majors back in 2006-2007 to earn an MLB pension, so it’s all good for player who managed only 72 major league plate appearances.

The beauty of LMB is that with its roughly AA level of play, players (mostly from Latin America) who have aged out of the MLB system can earn a living wage, at Mexico’s cost of living, playing into their late 30’s or even early 40’s if they are good enough and age gracefully.  Roberson is a poster boy, but there are a lot of other players about whom the same can also be said.

Karl Galinas and Isaac Pavlik.  Two Can-Am League pitchers, they are the modern day equivalent of Lefty George.  George was a marginal major leaguer who pitched nearly forever in his adopted home town of York, Pennsylvania, where he also ran a bar.

Galinas and Pavlik never reached the majors (or came close) but they have pitched for years in respectively, Quebec City and northern New Jersey.  Both are local boys, and it looks like Galinas in involved in the management of the Quebec Capitales, which may explain why he’s continued to be the team ace.

Alas, it looks like 2017 was Pavlik’s last season.  It was more than a good run with 13 seasons pitched for the New Jersey Jackels.  At age 38 now, it’s hard to justify spending 4.5 months each year pitching for a lousy $10,000.  You can’t live in New Jersey on that unless you spend your nights in a cardboard box or a beat-up vehicle.

Galinas has pitched 12 seasons for the Capitales, and at age 35 (happy birthday, Karl!), he’s still one of the league’s best pitchers in the early going.  Pavlik and Galinas the top two pitchers (in that order) in the Can-Am League in terms of career wins, losses, innings pitched and strikeouts.

To be honest, I’m not sure how the Can-Am League has lasted so long.  Attendance does not match that of either the Atlantic League or the American Association, particularly when it comes to the top teams.  What Galinas and Pavlik have accomplished is simply amazing.

Orlando Roman‘s baseball odyssey appears to have ended with four starts in Puerto Rico this past winter.  He pitched professionally for 19 seasons without ever reaching the MLB majors.  He used the CPBL as a spring board for four so-so seasons in Japan’s NPB where he pitched just well enough to earn more than $1 million.  With four years in the CPBL sandwiching his four years in Japan, plus all his winter league seasons, I’d guess Roman made close to $2 million in his professional career, which beats just about anything else he might reasonably have been doing.

It also looks like Brian “Beef” Burgamy‘s 16 year pro career concluded at the end of the 2017 season.  He compiled more than 8,000 professional plate appearances without ever playing above the AA/LMB level.

There are so many young or youngish or not-so-young players in the Atlantic League and LMB who can play but will likely never again play at a higher level than the top four winter Caribbean winter leagues or the CPBL that I can’t describe them all here.  Cuban defector Yadir Drake played so well in the first half of the 2017 LMB season that he got a shot in Japan, but he couldn’t cut it with the Nippon Ham Fighters, and he’s back in LMB this year.  It’s a big jump from the Mexican League to the major league money paid by the KBO or NPB, and few players can do it.