The Korea Baseball Organization has announced notable new restrictions on spending relating to foreign players, as Yonhap News reports (h/t to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). In particular, the rules establish stringent limitations on what KBO clubs can offer players who are not already on their rosters.
Increasingly in recent years, the KBO has represented an intriguing possibility for players who have struggled to establish themselves in the majors. In addition to earning some added money and getting to play a leading role in a country’s highest-level league, the opportunity has functioned as a platform for a return to the majors in many instances.
For KBO clubs, the process of luring players from other parts of the world offers an important means of boosting their rosters. Transfer fees allow MLB organizations to get a piece of the action as well, in instances where the player at issue is under contractual control on this side of the Pacific.
Now, KBO clubs will be limited to a $1MM total outlay, and a one-season commitment, in adding non-Korean players to a roster. That amount includes all financial commitments to the player and any transfer fee paid. The new rules stipulate that multi-year contracts cannot be promised to players outside an organization.
Importantly, once a foreign player has joined a KBO organization, a multi-year arrangement will be possible. That’s available in an extension scenario or for a player who is re-signing with the particular team that signed them originally. Players looking to join another KBO team via free agency, though, will still face the new restrictions.
Importantly, the KBO already imposes a roster limitation on its member teams. Each club may carry only three foreign players. With ten organizations, that means there are at most thirty spots to go around. (Click here for a list of current players and their statistical performances.) Now, there’ll be some important new restrictions on how spending for those openings occurs. While it’s generally typical for foreign players to sign one-year deals, at least upon going to the KBO in the first instance, the initial salary ceiling and intra-KBO spending restrictions will surely change the landscape.
It seems the justifications here are much like those we’re accustomed to hearing for North American sports. The idea, as the article puts it, is to “curb teams’ spending on imports and to ensure fair competition.” It’ll also mean that the KBO isn’t as readily able to attract and retain its top targets, though teams that find players they like will be in a position to double down on their initial commitments through larger or lengthier ensuing contracts.