Former Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph has agreed to a one-year contract with the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter). The Jet Sports client will be guaranteed $1MM on the contract — the maximum amount for which a foreign player can sign for his first year in the KBO.
Meanwhile, former Twins and Red Sox right-hander Justin Haley has signed with the KBO’s Samsung Lions, the team announced via press release (hat tip: Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, on Twitter). Haley’s deal will pay him a guaranteed $650K ($550K salary, $100K signing bonus) and provide him with the opportunity to earn an additional $250K via performance incentives. He’s represented by PSI Sports Management.
Joseph, 27, turned away interest from teams in Japan and Korea last offseason, telling NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury at the time that he didn’t want to forgo the opportunity to return to the big leagues in 2018. Circumstances have changed since that time, of course. Joseph was still on Philadelphia’s 40-man roster at that point, and while he was undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that he wasn’t likely to have a prominent role on a roster with both Carlos Santana and Rhys Hoskins, there was perhaps hope that he’d land with another organization.
That proved to be the case to an extent; the Phillies designated Joseph for assignment, and he was claimed by the Rangers in Spring Training. Texas, though, designated Joseph for assignment at the end of camp and outrighted him to the minors. The slugger spent most of the 2018 season with Texas’ Triple-A affiliate, where he raked at a .284/.353/.549 clip and mashed 21 homers in 357 plate appearances. He’ll head to South Korea with a career .247/.297/.460 batting line and 43 homers through 880 Major League plate appearances — all with the Phillies.
Haley, meanwhile, pitched in the Majors in both 2017 and 2018 — albeit in limited fashion. Minnesota selected Haley out of Boston’s system in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, and he made hit MLB debut in 2017. However, Minnesota didn’t hang onto him for the full season, ultimately returning him to Boston that May. Haley had his contract selected by the Red Sox in 2018 and made four relief appearances, though he lost his roster spot back on Nov. 1. In 25 2/3 career innings at the Major League level, Haley has a 5.61 ERA and a 14-to-9 K/BB ratio. However, he’s been substantially better in Triple-A, where he’s compiled a career 3.53 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 260 1/3 innings.
Both Joseph and Haley stand to earn considerably more money than they’d have made by signing a minor league contract and opening the season in Triple-A with a new organization. And, should either player cement himself as a quality contributor in the KBO, there’s certainly the opportunity to earn a raise in the KBO for the 2020 season as well. It’s not especially common to see players elevate their stock overseas and then return to find big league success, though Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas both stand out as recent examples of that route to multi-year free agent contracts.