The Orioles on Monday officially announced that they have signed South Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon to a three-year contract. Yoon's deal will reportedly guarantee him $5.575MM and also contains incentives and escalator provisions could significantly increase its total value to $13.075MM over that span. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette offered the following statement on the signing:
"We are excited to bring Suk-min Yoon to the organization. He has been a top pitcher in the Korea Baseball Organization and has pitched successfully in international competition. We look forward to his contributions to the Orioles."
The contract features a slightly backloaded and rather complicated structure. Yoon will receive a $675K signing bonus, then earn $750K for the coming season, $1.75MM in 2015, and $2.4MM in 2016. On top of that, Yoon can earn $1.25MM in incentives in 2014 based upon games started. Reaching that milestone would also bump his 2015 base by $1.25MM. The same mechanism allows Yoon to earn $1.25MM in incentives for 2015 and add as much as $2.5MM to his 2016 base salary (and, once more, earn a $1.25MM incentive payday in that final year of the deal).
Notably, Yoon also receives other protection in the contract. He will be eligible to qualify for free agency after the deal is up, and the deal includes a mechanism to protect him from a minor league demotion.
Yoon is said to be "in good shape to pass" the physical, but the club is reportedly remaining quiet about the deal until he does. Obviously, Baltimore is hopeful of avoiding any bad press that might come from issues relating to the medical exam, given its heavily-scrutinized decisions to shelve deals with Grant Balfour and Tyler Colvin due to problems with their physicals.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained in his detailed profile of Yoon before the off-season, the Korean hurler was widely regarded as the KBO's second-best pitcher after Hyun-jin Ryu, who went on to success with the Dodgers last year. But that does not necessarily mean he approaches Ryu's upside, as the stark differences in their contracts would suggest. (Ryu was promised $36MM, after Los Angeles bid over $25MM for negotiating rights. Unlike Ryu, Yoon was a free agent and did not require a posting or release fee.)
That is not to say that Yoon lacks appeal, of course. He had two outstanding seasons in the KBO as a starter, winning the league's MVP award in 2011. Though he is said not to have dominant stuff, Yoon is by all accounts a solid arm with the talent to add value in the bigs. The major issue with Yoon, Dierkes noted, was a shoulder injury that hampered his 2013 campaign. He battled through the injury, but split time between a starting and relief role and failed to match his prior production.
Though Dierkes put Yoon's value at two years and $10MM, he noted that prediction was based on very limited information. A recent report indicated that Yoon was seeing wide interest, but that apparently did not allow him to generate much of a bidding war.
From the Orioles' perspective, Yoon is set to receive the first MLB deal given by the club to a starter this off-season. (Of course, the team added Bud Norris via trade at last year's deadline, a fact which is often overlooked.) Indeed, Yoon would represent the largest free agent splash thus far for the O's, beating the two-year, $4.5MM guarantee made to reliever Ryan Webb.
Given that his contract includes incentives based upon games started, it would seem he stands at least some chance to crack the rotation. The club's rotation figures to include Norris, Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, and Miguel Gonzalez. Yoon could potentially battle with a range of other options — including Kevin Gausman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, T.J. McFarland, and Alfredo Aceves — for the final slot.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the signing. MLB.com's Britt Ghiroli (via Twitter) first reported its approximate value, and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter) first reported that it included incentive provisions. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com reported the contract breakdown, details, and escalators. Special thanks to Cotillo for explaining the complicated structure of the incentive and escalator provisions.