OCT. 20: KBO has determined that Lotte will not be permitted to post both Hwang and Son simultaneously, per a new report from Yonhap. However, if the first player posted by the Giants fails to reach a deal with a Major League club, the Giants could then post the other player.
KBO players are eligible to be posted beginning on Nov. 1 and at any point until March 1, though it’d obviously behoove Lotte (or any other club) to post its players earlier in the offseason, when MLB teams have more money to spend. Per the Yonhap report, the Giants plan to try to convince both players to stay in KBO for another season.
OCT. 16: Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang and outfielder Ah-seop Son have both asked their team, the Lotte Giants, to be posted for Major League teams to bid on this offseason, according to a report from Korean media outlet Yonhap News (link is in English).
However, we’re not likely to see both players make the jump to Major League Baseball in 2016, as the Korea Baseball Organization’s rules stipulate that a team can only accept a posting bid on one player per offseason. That, however, does not technically mean that both cannot be posted. A person familiar with the league tells MLBTR that there’s an internal debate among KBO officials as to whether or not the Giants could still post both players. In that instance, the team would be limited to accepting a bid on one or the other. To this point, given the limited number of players to jump from KBO to MLB, there’s been no precedent for a team desiring to post multiple players in the same offseason.
At this juncture, the Giants haven’t given an indication as to whether or not they’ll post either player, per the Yonhap report. From a pure business standpoint, though, it would make the most sense to post Hwang. The 28-year-old third baseman has eight years of service time in KBO, and players become eligible for international free agency after nine seasons, meaning Hwang could leave without the restriction of the posting process next offseason. Son, on the other hand, has seven years of service time and could be posted again next winter.
Hwang enjoyed a breakout season in 2015, shattering his previous career-high in home runs. The right-handed hitter batted .290/.350/.521 with 26 homers on the season after never having totaled more than 18 in a season. It’s worth noting that KBO did up its number of regular-season contests from 128 to 144 this season, but even on a per-plate-appearance basis, his homer output markedly increased, and he won the KBO’s annual home run derby this season as well. Hwang is said to be a good defensive third baseman, and he’s played in every KBO game dating back to 2011, so he has durability on his side also.
Son is a few months younger and will play all of the 2016 season at age 28 (Hwang will turn 29 next July). The left-handed hitter doesn’t have Hwang’s power upside but is a better contact hitter and has posted consistently superior on-base percentages. Son batted .317/.406/.472 with 13 homers and 11 steals (17 attempts) in 116 games this year and has hit .306 or better with at least a .370 OBP each year dating back to 2010. He’s previously swiped as many as 36 bases in a season. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported recently that Son hoped to be posted and was being represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
It’s not known what type of posting fee either player would command, but as a reminder, KBO still uses the old, “blind” posting method from which Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball has moved away. Under the KBO posting system, all 30 teams would be able to submit a blind bid of any amount, with the Giants then accepting the highest bid. From that point, the team that won the bidding would have a month to negotiate a contract with the player and his representatives. If an agreement isn’t reached, the player would return to the Giants, and the posting fee would be returned to the team that had won the bidding.
Jung Ho Kang, a close friend of Hwang, cost the Pirates a $5MM posting fee plus a guaranteed four-year, $11MM contract. That deal, of course, looks to be an incredible bargain for GM Neal Huntington in hindsight. It will be interesting to see if the success of Kang makes teams more willing to wager larger posting fees on future Korean players even though neither Hwang nor Son possesses the same level of power.