South Korean left-hander Hyeon-jong Yang has ended negotiations with his previous KBO team, the Kia Tigers, and is committed to landing a major league contract, reports Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News. The Tigers had reportedly made Yang, 33 in March, a multi-year offer to return, notes Yoo, but he’ll instead continue to pursue an MLB deal.
Yang’s agent In-gook Choi told Yoo earlier this month his client was only interested in a guaranteed major league contract, saying he “(wouldn’t) take a split deal.” That’s no longer the case, as Yoo reports Yang would now be open to any contract that guarantees him a 40-man roster spot, even if he’ll have to start the 2021 season in the minors.
Finding a spot on a team’s 40-man could still prove to be a tough task, as Yang’s coming off a disappointing 2020. Last season, he pitched to a 4.70 ERA over 172.1 innings, a far cry from his brilliant 2.29 mark the season before. Perhaps more worrisome, Yang’s swing-and-miss and control seemingly both went in the wrong direction last season. The southpaw’s strikeout rate dropped over two percentage points (20% in 2020, down from 22.2% in 2019), while his walk rate nearly doubled (up to 8.6% in 2020 from 4.5% in 2019).
Last year’s numbers belie Yang’s much stronger career track record. In fourteen KBO seasons, all with the Tigers, Yang has compiled a 3.83 ERA with a 19.8% strikeout rate against a 9.4% walk rate.