Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr., the MVP of the 2020 KBO season, has drawn interest from both Asian and MLB clubs as he mulls his future. Despite a recent report that he was leaning toward a deal with Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, Rojas himself tweeted that he’s made no decision yet on where he’ll play in 2021. Not long after that, Sportsgrid’s Craig Mish reported that the Marlins are among the clubs to have shown interest in Rojas.
Rojas, 30, has gone from a relatively unheralded Pirates and Braves farmhand to a legitimate superstar in South Korea, hitting a combined .321/.388/.594 with 132 home runs in 511 games for the KT Wiz across the past four seasons. The 2020 campaign was the best of his outstanding KBO career: in 628 trips to the plate he slashed .349/.417/.680 with 47 home runs.
The KBO has long been considered a notoriously hitter-friendly setting, but league-wide offense has gone down over the past couple of seasons since the league made some changes to the composition of the ball prior to the 2019 season. Rojas’ 2020 numbers checked in at a 179 wRC+, per FanGraphs, indicating that he was 79 percent better than a league-average hitter.
Miami has a pair of outfield spots spoken for, with veterans Corey Dickerson in left field and Starling Marte in center field. They have options in right field in the form of Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez, Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, but Rojas would add an intriguing name to the mix. If the NL ultimately adds a DH — teams are operating with the assumption that will not happen, for now — then Miami could potentially work both Rojas and someone like Cooper into the mix on a regular basis.
While the Fish have plenty of in-house options to consider, the appeal of adding a player like Rojas is readily apparent for a typically low-payroll club. Even if Rojas puts together only average numbers, they could stomach that for what should be a relatively low salary. And if he’s able to produce anything more than that, obtaining above-average or even star-level output from a bargain pickup would be vital for a team with such limited payroll capacity.
At this point it’s not clear which route Rojas will take. He earned every bit of last year’s $1.5MM salary in the KBO, and with the Wiz and apparently some NPB teams vying for his services, he should be able to top that salary if he chooses to remain in Asia. Rojas, however, has openly expressed that his dream is to play in the Major Leagues, and this winter could represent his best opportunity to find a big league deal.