The SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization announced yesterday that they’ve hired Astros bench coach Trey Hillman as their new manager (via Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News). Hillman signed a two-year contract that’ll pay him $1.6MM, per Yoo’s report, which also notes that Hillman will become just the second foreign-born manager to serve in the KBO in the league’s 34-year history. His departure will leave the Astros looking for a new bench coach for manager A.J. Hinch, though Houston has yet to issue a comment on the news.
Hillman served as the manager of the Royals from 2008-10, compiling a 152-207 record before being ousted for Ned Yost, who remains the Kansas City skipper to this day. In addition to his time with the Royals, Hillman spent five years managing in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and has more than a decade of managerial experience in the minor leagues. He’s also served as the Rangers’ director of player development (in 2002), the Dodgers’ bench coach (2011-13) and spent two years as a scout with the Indians early in his career.
There were previously reports circulating in the Korean media that the Wyverns were eyeing a foreign manager to bring a new style of play to the club, and they were at one point rumored to have interest (link in Korean) in former White Sox and Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen. Hillman’s experience managing and coaching in multiple countries should bring the shakeup the Wyverns were seeking, though, as the team looks to improve upon its 69-75 standing from this past season.
Of course, Hillman will be joining a team that could lose its best pitcher, left-hander Gwang-hyun Kim, to international free agency this winter. With more than nine full seasons of pro ball under his belt in the KBO, Kim can test free agency and negotiate with Major League teams without needing to go through the posting process. The Padres won exclusive negotiation rights with Kim two years ago when they bid $2MM for his services, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal. This past season, he posted a 3.80 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9, and he has turned in three straight years with a sub-4.00 ERA in the hitter-friendly KBO.