The Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization announced a six-year contract with free agent outfielder Sung-bum Na. The deal is worth $12.6MM, a figure that’s tied for the loftiest deal in KBO history (h/t to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap).
Na has appeared on major league radars in each of the past two offseasons. Na’s former team, the NC Dinos, made him available to big league clubs via the posting system last winter. His 30-day window to sign with an MLB team went without an agreement, though, and Na returned to the Dinos this past season.
This winter, Na qualified for domestic free agency in South Korea but remained one year away from unrestricted international free agency. Major League Baseball tendered a status check on Na last month, indicating that at least one major league team expressed interest in the left-handed hitter.
Obviously, Na’s deal with the Tigers forecloses the possibility of his making the jump to the big leagues this year. In all likelihood, it closes the books on any potential MLB future for Na, who turned 32 years old in October. The six-year term will keep him with the Tigers through the end of his age-37 campaign. It seems unlikely he’d make the move stateside at that point of his career.
Na has spent nine seasons playing in Korea’s top league. He’d spent his entire career to date with the Dinos, combining for an impressive .312/.378/.538 line. This past season, Na hit .281/.337/.506 with 32 home runs across 565 plate appearances. That’s not quite his peak form, although that output still checked in 24 points above the KBO league average by measure of wRC+.