Recent comments from right-handed reliever Seunghwan Oh seemingly indicated he was contemplating a return to his native Korea for the 2019 season, despite being under contract with the Rockies after his option vested. The Colorado organization, though, anticipates that Oh will remain with the club, general manager Jeff Bridich tells reporters including Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
“Our understanding is that he has every intention of honoring his contract,” said Bridich. He explains that Oh’s camp informed him that the righty’s “comments to the Korean media were not specifically about 2019,” so much as a general preference to pitch again in the KBO before wrapping up his playing career.
Certainly, that news comes as a relief for the Rox, who stand to control Oh for a reasonable $2.5MM salary. The 36-year-old thrived both before and after a mid-season trade sent him to Colorado from the Blue Jays. He ended the season with a 2.63 ERA over 68 1/3 innings, with a healthy combination of 79 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Despite exhibiting a velocity loss of a full tick on his average fastball, Oh managed to post a strong 14.7% swinging-strike rate. He increased the usage of a fourth pitch (a curve) that he used at the expense of his somewhat diminished heater.
Obviously, it’s always a good thing to have a useful ballplayer under contract at a price that lags his value. And there’s little question that Oh would earn more in free agency were he to return to the open market this fall.
But the need is even more acute for a Rockies organization that has poured money into its bullpen without achieving the desired results. Since the 2015-16 winter, the club has signed Wade Davis ($52MM total guarantee), Jake McGee ($27MM), Bryan Shaw ($27MM), Mike Dunn ($19MM), Greg Holland ($7MM guarantee, $14MM ultimate salary owing to incentives), Jason Motte ($10MM), and Chad Qualls ($6MM).
Overall, there’s little question that the club has not received the output it hoped for from this group. Several players — Davis, McGee, Shaw, and Dunn — remain under contract. While a bounceback or two may still not be too much to ask for, it’s critical that the organization get some cost-efficient, quality pieces in the mix. That’s particularly true given that the organization is already sitting with nearly as much cash on the books (around $130MM with arbitration eligibles included at their projected value) as it did to start the 2018 season (a club record of about $136MM).