The SSG Landers of the Korea Baseball Organization announced Tuesday that they’ve signed right-hander Robert Dugger to a one-year deal worth $750K (link via Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency). He can earn another $150K via incentives.
Dugger, 28, logged MLB time each season from 2019-22, compiling a total of 86 2/3 innings between the Marlins, Mariners, Rays and Reds. He was hit hard during that stretch, yielding a 7.17 ERA, but he’s posted solid results in an exorbitantly hitter-friendly Triple-A setting in each of the past two seasons. Dugger’s 4.31 earned run average with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2023 actually led all qualified starting pitchers in the Pacific Coast League and ranked ranked fourth among starters with at least 70 innings pitched. He coupled that mark with a 22.6% strikeout rate, 9.5% walk rate and 43.5% ground-ball rate.
Baseball America ranked Dugger among the Marlins’ top 30 prospects each year from 2018-20, labeling him a potential back-of-the-rotation starter thanks more to a deep and varied five-pitch arsenal than due to any one truly plus offering. He’ll take that skill set overseas in his first foray into professional ball in Asia, and in doing so will secure a much larger payday than he’d have commanded as a depth arm in Triple-A hoping for what would’ve likely been a brief call to the Majors before again being a DFA candidate as an out-of-options journeyman.
Dugger has never been seen as a power arm, averaging just 90.9 mph on his four-seamer and 90.1 mph on his sinker throughout his big league trials. That lack of velo won’t be as glaring in the KBO, where the average fastball clocks in lower than in MLB.
As a former 18th-round pick, he’ll relish this opportunity to secure the largest guaranteed salary of his career. And with a nice season for the Landers, Dugger could position himself to re-sign on a seven-figure deal (or close to it). Enough success could garner him some interest from Japan’s NPB or perhaps even pave the way for an eventual return to the Majors.