Korean outfielder Ah-Seop Son plans to enter the posting system this offseason, sources told Yahoo Sports, paving the way for his arrival in Major League Baseball next year and continuing the expected infusion of Korean position players after the success of Pittsburgh infielder Jung-Ho Kang this season.
Son, 27, is a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing corner outfielder whose forte is more hitting for a high average and getting on base than the power-hitting Kang. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Son has hit better than .300 for six consecutive seasons with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization.
His best season came in 2014, when he batted .362/.456/.538 and won a fourth consecutive Gold Glove, which is given to the best overall player at his position in the KBO. This year, Son is hitting .324/.412/.476 and shows enough power to quell concerns he’s simply a slap hitter.
Before incurring a season-ending injury completing a double play last week, Kang had proven one of the season’s finest surprises and among the biggest bargains in baseball. The Pirates signed him to a four-year, $11 million contract after sending $5 million to his former team, the Nexen Heroes, for the right to negotiate a deal. Kang, 28, hit .287/.355/.461 after logging time at third base and shortstop, and he was a strong candidate to finish as runner-up to Kris Bryant in the National League Rookie of the Year race.
While his numbers didn’t translate evenly – in Kang’s last season with the Heroes, he hit .356/.459/.739 with 40 home runs – his transition to MLB impressed executives across the game and lessened concerns with Korean position players. Much like Ichiro Suzuki, whose first contract was three years and $9 million, Kang’s season not only opens the door for his countrymen to join MLB but ensures they’ll get paid at a far greater rate than his well-below-market deal.
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Once Son posts – sources said Lotte is aware of his intention – he will be subject to the system in which all 30 MLB teams can place a blind bid for his rights. If the Giants accept the bid, Son’s agent, Rick Thurman of the Beverly Hills Sports Council, will have a 30-day window to negotiate a contract.
Son’s imminent arrival in MLB is not guaranteed. If lowballed in negotiations, he could return to Korea in 2016, hit free agency after the next season and seek the biggest contract from all 30 teams without the restrictions of the posting system.
How many other Koreans come to MLB this offseason – two-time KBO MVP Byung-Ho Park has said he would like to make the jump but hasn’t declared his intentions officially – should provide a fascinating subplot to what many believe is the best major league free-agent class ever. The first KBO player to come to MLB, left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, received a six-year, $36 million deal from the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2013 season.
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