The Korea Baseball Organization’s Kiwoom Heroes have made an early change in their rotation involving a pair of former big league pitchers. Per Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the Heroes announced that they’ve reacquired righty Jake Brigham and waived right-hander Josh A. Smith.
Brigham had been pitching with the Wei Chuan Dragons Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League. He’ll finish out the remainder of the month with the Dragons, per the report, then join the Heroes after a two-week quarantine period. It’s not clear what type of compensation the two clubs will exchange, but Brigham will be guaranteed $480K for the remainder of the season with another $50K available via incentives.
Now 33 years old, Brigham was a sixth-round pick by the Rangers back in 2006 and for a few years was considered to be among their top 30 prospects. He was traded to the Cubs in the deal that sent Geovany Soto to Texas back in 2012, and he bounced to several teams thereafter. Brigham appeared in a dozen games with the 2015 Braves but was hit hard, and that still stands as his only MLB experience to date.
Despite a lack of success in North American ball, Brigham has carved out quite a nice career pitching in Asia. A brief stint with Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2016 didn’t bear much fruit, but he signed with the Heroes in 2017 and spent the next four seasons as a key piece of their rotation. From 2017-20, Brigham racked up 608 1/3 innings and pitched to a 3.70 ERA with a 19.7 percent strikeout rate and a tiny 6.3 percent walk rate.
Brigham was out to a very strong start in Taiwan this year, pitching to a 0.63 ERA with 15 strikeouts against three walks in 28 2/3 frames. That, it seems, was enough to convince the Heroes that he was past the elbow issues which plagued him during 2020 and prompted the team to move in another direction.
As for Smith, his time with the Heroes will prove quite limited. He made just two starts after signing a one-year deal that came with a $500K salary. Smith pitched just 10 innings and was tagged for seven runs on nine hits and five walks with nine strikeouts.
Smith, 33, has quite a bit more Major League experience than Brigham and was in the bigs as recently as last season, when he tossed 26 1/3 innings for the Marlins. He’s also spent time with the Reds, A’s and Red Sox, logging a collective 5.60 ERA (4.72 SIERA) with an 18 percent strikeout rate, a 9.7 percent walk rate and a 40.6 percent ground-ball rate through 184 2/3 innings at the MLB level.