Free agent outfielder Juan Lagares has signed with the SSG Landers of the Korea Baseball Organization, the team announced (h/t to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News). The ACES client will be paid $495K for the remainder of the season.
It’s the first professional trip outside North America for Lagares, who has spent the past 16 years in the affiliated ranks. The 33-year-old has suited up with the Mets and Angels for 850 games in the major leagues. A Gold Glove caliber center fielder early in his career, he earned regular playing time on the strength of his glove for a good chunk of his stint in Queens.
Over the past few seasons, Lagares has settled in as a depth outfielder in the majors. His defensive metrics have tailed off and he’s posted well below-average numbers at the plate in each of the past two seasons. Lagares hit .236/.266/.372 through 327 plate appearances with the Halos last year. He returned on a minor league deal over the winter and earned another big league look in late May. After a disappointing 20-game showing, the Angels designated him for assignment last month. He cleared outright waivers and hit free agency, and he’ll now join a Landers team that has the KBO’s best record (52-26).
In a corresponding move, the Landers are releasing first baseman Kevin Cron. The former Diamondback spent the 2021 season in Japan and made the move to South Korea on a $750K contract last offseason. He’s struggled to a .222/.255/.420 line across 259 trips to the plate. While he’s hit 11 home runs and flashed some of the power potential he showed in the minor leagues, his on-base deficiencies mounted to the point the team decided to move on. The 29-year-old will be a free agent.
That also seems as if it’ll be true for veteran starter Iván Nova. Yoo adds the Landers are seeking a replacement for the 35-year-old righty, who signed for $900K over the winter. Nova has been tagged for a 6.50 ERA through 12 starts, only striking out 11% of the batters he’s faced. Yoo notes that various injuries could have played a part in that underperformance, but the club will look for an alternative nevertheless. An 11-year MLB veteran, Nova hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2020. KBO teams are permitted to carry two foreign-born pitchers on their rosters, so the Landers seem likely to look for a new option to pair with Wilmer Font, who is having an excellent season.