Two of South Korea’s top players are still waiting to see if they will join Major League Baseball next season, as Jeeho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency provides updates on both left-hander Hyeon-Jong Yang and outfielder Sung-Bum Na (Twitter link).
Beginning with Yang, the southpaw is looking for a guaranteed MLB deal rather than a split contract, according to Yang’s agent In-gook Choi. Yang is willing to “be flexible” about being sent to the minors without his consent, Choi said, “but we won’t take a split deal.”
There hasn’t been much publicly-known information about Yang’s free agency since news broke back in October about his plan to explore a jump to North America. Yoo goes so far as to describe the longtime Kia Tigers hurler as “almost a forgotten free agent,” perhaps owing to Yang’s subpar 2020 season. The lefty posted a 4.70 ERA, 19.97 K% and 8.6 BB% over 172 1/3 innings for the Tigers last season, with that ERA standing out as Yang’s highest in the last eight seasons.
It isn’t the platform year that Yang wanted as he prepared to market himself to Major League teams, and it remains to be seen what type of offers he might land as he heads into his age-33 season. Choi said that “teams that are still trying to fill out their rotation have shown interest” and predicts that Yang will get more attention once Tomoyuki Sugano’s posting period is up on Thursday. However, a concrete offer for Yang will have to come soon — Choi and Yang have set a mid-January date for a decision either way, so Yang will have adequate time to get ready for the 2021 season whether he pitches in North America or for another KBO League team.
Yang is a full free agent, and thus doesn’t have to face any international signing restrictions or the KBO/MLB posting system. Whereas Yang’s mid-January deadline is self-imposed, however, Na is subject to a 30-day posting window that lasts until 4pm CT on January 9. As Yoo plainly puts it, there is “not much buzz around Na so far” as his posting deadline draws near.
The 31-year-old slugger is coming off one of his finest of his eight seasons with the NC Dinos, as Na hit .324/.390/.596 with 34 home runs over 584 plate appearances. Despite this performance, Na spent much of his time as a designated hitter in 2020, in the aftermath of a major knee injury that cost him much of the 2019 season. The status of Na’s knee and how it impacts both his speed and his ability to regularly play the outfield) is of natural concern to any Major League suitors. Na has already made the trip to North America, Yoo writes, as Na has been working out at the Boras Corporation’s training facilities in California.