Feb. 26, 5:58pm: The Toronto organization has announced the signing. He’ll earn $1.75MM for 2018, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), with a $250K buyout on a $2MM option that vests upon seventy appearances. The deal also includes $1.5MM in possible incentives.
12:08pm: Oh has passed his physical, tweets Nicholson-Smith. The move, then, should be officially announced in the near future.
Feb. 25: The Blue Jays have agreed to sign right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, FanRag Sports’ Robert Murray reports (Twitter link). The deal is a one-year contract that will guarantee Oh $2MM in 2018, Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson Smith reports (Twitter links), plus there is a vesting option for 2019. Oh is a client of Rosenhaus Sports Representation.
The contract is contingent on Oh passing a physical, which could still be a notable obstacle given that a deal between Oh and the Rangers fell through earlier this month. The Rangers’ deal with Oh called for a $2.75MM guarantee, plus a $4.5MM club option (with a $250K buyout) for 2019. As per Sung Min Kim of the Sporting News (via Twitter), however, Oh’s MRI revealed some inflammation in his throwing elbow that wasn’t considered serious enough to scuttle the deal altogether, though the Rangers tried three times to re-work the terms. Oh’s representation didn’t want to re-open talks, and thus no contract was finalized.
Oh came to Major League Baseball in the 2015-16 offseason after 11 seasons as a top closer in both the Korean Baseball Organization and Nippon Professional Baseball. He made an immediate impact on the Cardinals’ bullpen, posting a 1.92 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and 5.72 K/BB rate over 79 2/3 innings and taking over the Cards’ closer job. Oh’s follow-up campaign, however, wasn’t nearly as successful, as his troubles with the home-run ball (1.5 HR/9) led to his removal from ninth-inning duty last summer. Beyond just the increase in homers, Oh also saw his grounder rate (40% to 28.7%), strikeout rate (down to 8.19 K/9), and swinging strike percentage (18% to 12.9%) drop from his 2016 numbers, and he posted a 4.10 ERA over 59 1/3 IP.
While it was a tough year for Oh, his stats didn’t crater to the point that a turn-around isn’t out of the question, or that his problems weren’t due to a normal sophomore slump. His hard-hit ball rate actually dropped from 2016 to 2017, for instance, even though his overall contact rates increased. Moving to Rogers Centre and the AL East might not be much help to Oh’s home run issues, of course, and since he is 35 years old, there’s also the chance that Oh is simply starting to decline.
[Updated Blue Jays depth chart at Roster Resource]
Still, the reasonable $2MM price tag makes Oh a decent risk for a Jays team that was known to still be looking around for bullpen help. Oh won’t be asked to be a “Final Boss” (his old KBO nickname) in Toronto with Roberto Osuna firmly holding down the closer’s job, though he’ll step right into the setup mix alongside Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes (not to mention longer-shot non-roster invites like John Axford or Al Alburquerque). Joe Biagini could also again step into a meaningful bullpen role, though the Jays are currently stretching the righty out as a starter in Triple-A to provide depth and occasional spot-start duty.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images