Giants’ Choi to pitch in U.S.
‘I know I’ve got to prove myself quickly or risk coming home.’
|Choi Hyang-nam is bound for the United States to play in the minor league. By Kim Min-gyu|
It may only be $101. But the Lotte Giants will take it, and their pitcher Choi Hyang-nam will be going to the United States after all.
An undisclosed Major League Baseball club bid $101 for the right to negotiate with Choi in a silent auction as part of the posting system. The Korea Baseball Organization informed the Giants on Saturday of the bid, and Giants officials have said they will accept the fee and let Choi go. The Giants have until tomorrow to officially notify the MLB of the decision.
Choi, a 37-year-old right-hander, said yesterday the Giants’ management gave him the go-ahead.
“I spoke to General Manager Lee Sang-koo on Sunday, and he said the team would be fully behind me,” Choi said. “And they will also try to find ways for me to train with the Giants before I depart for the U.S. in March.
“I am grateful that the team’s in full support,” he added. “All I have to do now is to go out there and pitch the best I can.”
Choi was once close to reaching a minor league deal worth $70,000 with the St. Louis Cardinals. But earlier last week, the Giants said they wouldn’t simply let Choi walk away as a free agent and wanted to put him through the posting system.
Posting is the transfer system between the KBO and the MLB in which major league clubs interested in a KBO player submit undisclosed bids for exclusive negotiating rights with that player. The bid money functions as a transfer fee for the KBO team.
Lee, the general manager, explained that the Giants weren’t simply after posting fees.
“We have an agreement with the MLB and we wanted the Choi transaction to go by the book,” Lee said. “We weren’t only about money.”
While the interested MLB team can’t be identified before the Giants’ official acceptance of the bid, Choi suspected it’s the Cardinals. Choi said last week that the Cardinals weren’t at first intending to bid for him.
As for the $101 fee, Choi said the money wasn’t all that important. What’s important, he added, was that a major league club wanted him badly enough that it was willing to bid for him.
“I know I’ve got to prove myself quickly, or risk coming home,” Choi said. “February will be a crucial month. But I am feeling great and I am ready to showcase my talent.
“I have to admit in terms of techniques, I was much better during my 20s,” Choi continued. “I can’t turn back time but I have wisdom and experience. If I can avoid injuries, I think I’ll be okay.”
Choi previously pitched in the United States. With the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A team in Buffalo, Choi went 8-5 with a 2.37 earned run average in 2006. But he wasn’t promoted to the club’s big league team and returned home after one season to sign with the Giants.
Before Choi, three Korean players have been put up for posting, but each time, KBO clubs rejected the bids. In 1998, the LG Twins had a $600,000 offer for pitcher Lee Sang-hoon. Four years later, Samsung Lions’ pitcher Lim Chang-yong had a $650,000 price tag. Also in 2002, Twins’ pitcher Jin Pil-jung was posted twice, but received no bid at first and then had a $25,000 offer.
Several players from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league have joined the U.S. majors through posting, including the 2001 American League MVP Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners (bid was $13 million) and Red Sox’s right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka ($51 million bid).
By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter/ Hur Jin-woo JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]