Korean right-hander Seung-hwan Oh will pursue a Major League contract this winter, reports Jeeho Yoo of Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. According to Yoo, Oh will travel to the United States this week and spend about 10 days in the U.S. as he meets with Major League clubs. Multiple teams have already expressed interest in Oh, who is considered the best closer in the history of the Korea Baseball Organization.
Oh, 33, carries one of the best nicknames you’ll encounter in pro sports: “The Final Boss.” After compiling a 1.69 ERA over his first nine seasons as a professional in the KBO, Oh went on to sign a two-year contract with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. He experienced similar success in Japan, recording a similarly impressive 2.25 ERA. Over the course of 11 professional seasons, Oh has worked to a 1.81 ERA with 357 saves, 10.7 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 646 1/3 innings of work.
Word about Oh’s possible jump to the Major Leagues surfaced last month. As MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk noted at the time, a two-year-old report from Global Sporting Integration on Oh explained that he had a fastball (nicknamed the “Stone Fastball,” for those who enjoy a good nickname as much as I do) that sat 92 to 94 mph and could touch 97 mph. Oh’s secondary pitches include a slider thrown at a wide range of velocities (80 to 89 mph) and a curveball that he throws in the 70s. Oh does have some injuries on his docket — as one might expect from a pitcher that will turn 34 next July — having undergone Tommy John surgery in college (2001) and a second elbow operation in 2010. Any concerns about lingering effects from that second operation were probably wiped out when he returned in 2011 with the best season of his career, posting a 0.63 ERA (four earned runs in 57 innings) with a 76-to-11 K/BB ratio for the Samsung Lions.
Oh is now a free agent and, as such, is not subject to the posting system that restricts Korean and Japanese players with less service time. While some reports out of Japan indicated that Hanshin is pursuing an extension with Oh, Yoo’s source stressed that Oh’s focus is on securing a Major League contract. It’s not known which clubs have expressed interest at this time, though Oh reportedly intrigued the Yankees two years ago before he signed a two-year deal to play in Japan.
Oh adds to a growing list of Korean talent that could make the jump to the Major Leagues in 2016. The Twins have already secured the bidding rights to slugger Byung-ho Park, and outfielder Ah-seop Son will reportedly be posted early next week. Additionally, first baseman Dae-ho Lee, a free agent that, like Oh, is exempt from the posting system, has declared his intent to sign with a Major League club as well.