Major League Baseball has tendered a status check on outfielder Sung-Bum Na of the Korea Baseball Organization’s NC Dinos, reports Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. The agreement between MLB and the KBO stipulates that if a team has interest in a KBO player that is eligible for posting, that MLB team must formally check the status of the player through official league channels. As Yoo points out, the status check indicates that at least one MLB team has expressed interest in signing Na this winter, but MLB must not reveal the team, or teams, in question. In the case of Na, who just turned 32 last month, Yoo clarifies that he is eligible for domestic free agency but still a year away from total international free agency. In other words, if Na wants to come to MLB this winter, he is still subject to the posting system.
This isn’t the first time that the lefty slugger has been considered by MLB teams. He was posted by the Dinos in December of last year, giving him 30 days to negotiate with all MLB clubs. At the time, he was coming off an injury-plagued 2019 and then a strong bounceback campaign in 2020. A knee injury and subsequent surgery limited Na to just 23 games in the 2019 season. In 2020, he returned and got into 130 games but primarily as a designated hitter, with 50 games as a right fielder, 45 of those being starts. However, the knee injury certainly didn’t stop him from contributing with the bat that year. His 2020 slash line was an excellent .324/.390/.596 with 34 home runs. On the other hand, he stole only 3 bases, after usually being in the 10-20 range prior to the knee issues. He also saw his strikeout rate jump to 25.3%, after carrying a career 21.3% rate before 2020. The 30-day posting period ended without Na signing a contract and he returned to the Dinos.
In 2021, Na’s output with the bat dropped slightly, as he hit .281/.337/.506, with 32 home runs, 24.9% strikeout rate, along with just a single stolen base. But on a positive note, he played 143 games, including 129 starts in right field, which perhaps signals that he has moved beyond the knee issues that were hampering him in 2020, at least to some degree. Based on that season, it’s unclear whether that would increase Na’s chances of finding a deal to his liking this offseason. From an offensive standpoint, his platform season is a notch below what he had when negotiating with MLB clubs a year ago. But he’s also now put together two consecutive healthy seasons, including a return to near full-time duties in the field for 2021, potentially allaying concerns about his knee.
Na would also be competing with a fairly healthy class of corner outfielders on the market this winter, and would be looking for a deal during a time when a lot of teams may be hesitant to throw money around until the new CBA is hammered out. Then again, teams were also hesitant to spend a year ago, after a season of heavy losses because of the pandemic.
If Na is able to secure a deal, the rules of the agreement between MLB and KBO stipulate that a posting fee be paid to his former team that will be tied directly to the size of the contract he signs. It is a separate sum that is paid out to the KBO club as opposed to an amount that is subtracted from the player’s eventual contract. A signing team would pay 20 percent of the contract’s first $25MM, plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and an additional 15 percent on any dollars guaranteed beyond $50MM.
With regard to contractual options and incentives, those clauses are also subject to subsequent fees. A Major League team would only be immediately responsible for posting/release fees on the guaranteed portion of the contract. But if a player’s new team in the Majors exercised a club option down the road, for instance, that team would owe a supplemental fee to the player’s former KBO club once the option is picked up.