중앙데일리

More foreigners coming to KBO

Teams adding players with MLB experience to beef up their rosters

Dec 13,2013
J.D. Martin
Earlier this week, after the Doosan Bears added Jorge Cantu, who had two 20-plus home run seasons in Major League Baseball, more high-quality players with MLB experience have been joining Korea Baseball Organization clubs. The 2013 KBO champions Samsung Lions said yesterday they have signed a one-year, $300,000 deal with pitcher J.D. Martin, 30, of the United States. The right-hander, who is 193 centimeters (6 feet, 4 inches) tall and weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds), was born in California and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the first round of the amateur draft in 2001.

He played for the Tampa Bay Rays’ triple-A team this past season as a starting pitcher and went 16-4 with a 2.75 ERA while pitching 160 and one-third innings in 27 games. His 16 wins were the highest in the International League and his ERA was the third best in the league. He was also named as the pitcher of the year.

Martin also has MLB experience. He appeared in 24 games during the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Washington Nationals, going 6-9 with a 4.32 ERA. His total record 256 minor league games (203 games as a starter) was 88-53, with 2 saves and a 3.64 ERA.

“His average fastball is about 140 kilometers per hour [86 miles per hour],” said Song Sam-bong, general manager of the Lions. “But he has an above-average sinker and cut fastball. He’s also good at holding runners on base, which many imported pitchers struggle with in the Korean league.”

The Lions are also close to re-signing their right-hander, Rick VandenHurk. “We are about to seal the contract with him,” Song said. “And we are still looking for a decent bat from foreign leagues.”

The NC Dinos, the KBO’s rookie team, which added outfielder Eric Thames earlier this week, also acquired their fourth foreign player for next season. The team said yesterday it signed a one-year deal with right-handed pitcher Thad G. Weber, 29, of the United States. Weber was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 16th round of the amateur draft in 2008 and threw a no-hitter in a double-A league game in 2009.

In 142 minor league games (137 games as a starter), he went 48-52 with a 3.86 ERA while pitching 825 and two-thirds innings. In this past season with the triple-A team of the Toronto Blue Jays, he had a record of 12-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 134 and one-third innings. “He can control his pitches and has a sharp curveball,” said Bae Suk-hyun, general manager of the Dinos. “He went to the same college as our other starting pitcher, Charlie Shirek, in Nebraska. I think their relationship will help him to adapt to the league faster.” Bae added that Weber is already talking to Shirek to learn about the Korean league.

The Lotte Giants, who acquired first baseman Choi Jun-suk, also added a robust right-handed imported slugger to their lineup. They said on Wednesday evening that they have signed a one-year, $300,000 deal with first baseman Luis Jimenez of Venezuela. He will likely be platooned at first base with Choi, who is a poor fielder because of his knee problems, and be the designated hitter. Jimenez, who spent 12 years in the minor leagues, made his MLB debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2012, but he only hit .059 in seven games and couldn’t make a big-league roster this past season. In 1,021 minor league games, he hit .289 with 154 home runs and 656 RBI.

“We expect him to bring more power to the middle of the lineup,” a Giants spokesman said.

It looks like the competition is high among Korean scouts to land decent bats and arms. “The money that has been dealing between Korean clubs and foreign clubs is much bigger than we imagine,” a source told the Korea JoongAng Daily on the condition of anonymity. “Since the KBO teams want to have better players than they had been looking for in the past, the price for each player has been skyrocketing. When a KBO team wants to sign a player affiliated with a MLB club, they just need to pay them about $50,000 for a transfer fee, but the price has been increasing to nearly $200,000 in the last five years. Selling minor league players to the Asian leagues, including Korea, became a good business for them.”

BY Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]




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