The Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization will post right fielder Ah-seop Son for MLB teams to bid upon this offseason, according to the Yonhap News Agency (hat tip: Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). Lotte had reportedly been mulling over the difficult decision of whether to post Son or third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, both of whom had asked the club to post them. However, KBO’s league rules state that a team can accept only one bid on a posted player per offseason, and a league ruling was made that Lotte could not simply post them simultaneously and then select the top bid.
Per Yonhap, if the Giants don’t receive a bid that is to their liking on Son, or they accept a bid but Son and the winning team cannot come to a deal on a Major League contract, the club will then immediately make Hwang available via the posting system. If a bid for Son is accepted and he does indeed sign with a big league club, then Lotte almost certainly will lose Hwang for nothing next offseason, as he’s set to become a true free agent next winter and could negotiate with MLB clubs without the restrictions of the posting system.
Because of that, it’s at least a mild surprise to see Son posted first, as he’d have been eligible to be posted next winter as well. However, the Yonhap report indicates that the Giants elected to post Son first due to a superior track record over the past five seasons. While Hwang set multiple career-highs in 2015, most notably in home runs (by a wide margin), Son’s been the steadier hitter over the past half-decade.
Dating back to 2011, Son has batted .333/.409/.476 as opposed to Hwang’s .289/.357/.438. Son has averaged 12 homers and 16 steals per year in that time, while Hwang has averaged respective totals of 12 and 17. (Hwang’s 26 homers in 2015 skew those averages somewhat, though so, too, do Son’s 36 steals in 2013.) The duo’s 2015 production — .317/.406/.472 for Son and .290/.350/.521 for Hwang — made the decision difficult for Lotte.
Son, who is represented by agent Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, will turn 28 during Spring Training next season. He will be posted under the old, blind-bid posting system that still applies to KBO. As a reminder, that means all 30 clubs will have the opportunity to submit a bid of any amount to secure negotiating rights for Son’s services. If Son’s team accepts the bid — and the Giants could neglect to do so if they don’t think it to be a high enough price for one of their top players — that team would then have 30 days to negotiate a big league contract with Son and Thurman. If a deal can’t be reached, Son would return to Lotte for the 2016 season, and the MLB club that won the bidding would receive its money back. As noted above, should that scenario play out, the process would start over with Hwang, with all 30 teams being eligible to place a bid.
Son will become eligible to be posted starting on Nov. 1, and due to the possibility that Lotte could have to go through the month-long bidding process twice this winter, it’d make sense for the club to post him as early in the offseason as possible. Teams will be burning through their budgets over the course of the winter, and waiting until later in the offseason raises the possibility of a team feeling its spent all it can on free agency or of acquiring an alternative to either player either via free agency or trade.
For the time being, Son will join a crowded free agent market for corner outfielders that is headlined by Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes but also features Colby Rasmus, Alex Rios, Steve Pearce and Rajai Davis, among others.