The Hanwha Eagles of the KBO League have signed pitcher Burch Smith for the 2023 season, according to reports out of South Korea (hat tip to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). Smith’s contract is worth up to $1MM, with the righty receiving a $100K signing bonus, $700K salary, and the opportunity to earn an additional $200K in incentives.
Initially drafted by the Padres in 2011, Smith would quickly debut for the team in 2013, albeit to a lackluster 6.44 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. He was traded to the Rays after the 2014 season and would soon undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He returned to the Majors in 2018 with the Royals, but once again pitched to an ineffective 6.92 ERA in 78 innings and was designated for assignment. Smith would go on to have short stints with the Brewers and Giants before latching on to a more permanent role with the Athletics during the 2021 season. Over parts of five MLB seasons, Smith holds a high 6.03 ERA in 191 innings with below-average strikeout and walk rates, 21.3% and 10.1%, respectively.
Smith transitioned overseas for the 2022 season, spending the year with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan’s NPB league. He was significantly more effective there, throwing 38 1/3 innings of 3.29 ERA baseball with a 23.7% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate.
Smith, who will be 33 years old in April, is now in line to play his second consecutive season overseas. There is little indication that the veteran reliever received any MLB interest prior to his contract with the Eagles. Instead, Smith will head to South Korea and earn significantly more than what he could have made from a potential minor league contract.