The SSG Landers of the Korea Baseball Organization have officially re-signed right-hander Wilmer Font to a one-year deal that includes a $1.1MM base salary and a $200K signing bonus, tweets Daniel Kim of MBC Sports. Font can also earn an additional $200K via incentives.
It’ll be the second season with the Landers for Font, who earned an even $1MM in a successful debut campaign. The 31-year-old righty stepped right into the Landers’ rotation and made 25 starts, pitching to a 3.46 ERA with a strong 26% strikeout rate, a 7.5% walk rate and a 55% ground-ball rate that towers over any ground-ball percentage posted by Font during his six big league seasons. Font also induced a whopping 26 infield flies — just over a quarter of the fly-balls he allowed were harmless pop-ups — and surrendered only a dozen long balls on the season (0.74 HR/9).
Prior to signing in South Korea, Font had quickly become a well-traveled big league journeyman. While the results weren’t strong, teams continued to be enamored of Font’s raw movement and velocity; he was designated for assignment four times from April 2018 to July 2019 but traded each time before even reaching waivers, as he went from the Dodgers to the A’s, from Oakland to Tampa Bay, from the Rays to the Mets, and from the Mets to the Blue Jays.
Along the way, Font posted an unsightly 5.54 ERA but averaged better than a punchout per frame while sitting just shy of 95 mph with his fastball. His best work came with the Rays, for whom he pitched to a 3.o7 ERA with a 22.8% strikeout rate and 9.6% walk rate through 41 innings from 2018-19. However, Font struggled with Tampa Bay early in 2019, pushing the Rays to DFA him — at which point the Mets offered up a young pitcher (minor league righty Neraldo Catalina) to take their own shot on him.
With another strong season in the KBO, it stands to reason that Font could garner free-agent interest from either Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan or from Major League teams. The newfound ground-ball rate is of particular intrigue, given Font’s career 38% mark in 151 2/3 Major League innings. For now, he’ll take home a second straight seven-figure salary — no small sum for a player who has spent 14 years in professional baseball but had yet to even go through arbitration in the Majors.