Expansion could put stress on KBO rosters

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Expansion could put stress on KBO rosters

With the Korea Baseball Organization voting earlier this week to expand the league, attention is now focused on how to carry out expansion without diluting existing teams’ overall talent and giving new franchises players with respectable skills.

One former manager and the current manager of the Incheon SK Wyverns believe it’s imperative to find ways to provide quality players for the expansion clubs while also maintaining a competitive balance.

The KBO front office and representatives from each team are discussing tweaking the current expansion rules, with current and former managers saying that the current system was not originally designed to handle a two-team expansion.

“We will need to come to an agreement at a board meeting, but we’re looking at several ways to provide expansion clubs with the players they need to compete in the league,” said a KBO official.

Kim In-sik, KBO technical committee member and former manager of the now-defunct Ssangbangwool Raiders has his own memories of how expansion can be a struggle.

“In our first season in the league, we faced many difficulties,” said Kim, who managed the Raiders from 1990 to 1992.

Founded in 1990, the Raiders played in a second-tier league in their first season before moving up to the KBO in 1991. The Raiders played out of Jeonju and Gunsan in North Jeolla and received two players from each existing club. They were also allowed a total of 10 selections in the 1990 and 1991 amateur drafts.

But the Raiders struggled for several seasons before Kim Sung-geun, the current Incheon SK Wyverns manager, took over as manager and guided the team to a second-place finish in 1996 and a third-place finish in 1997. Ssangbangwool went bankrupt during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the Raiders were disbanded. The KBO awarded a new franchise to SK in 2000.

SK was given the same benefits as the Raiders, but the Wyverns were still basement dwellers for three seasons before coming in second in the 2003 campaign.

“The current setup for incoming expansion clubs is worse than our expansion season with Ssangbangwool,” said Kim In-sik. “Existing teams will have to look at the big picture and make sacrifices.”

Said Kim Sung-geun: “I’m against allowing expansion teams one extra roster spot. We need to play under the same rules.

“But when it comes to expansion teams forming their rosters, the existing teams need to make sacrifices to help the newcomers adjust to league play.”

NCsoft Corp. and two other undisclosed companies have submitted bids for two new expansion clubs. One will likely be based in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, while an unnamed construction company has jumped into the fray and is reportedly showing strong interest for a club in Gyeonggi.

Under current KBO rules, an expansion team is given two first-round picks in the annual amateur draft for the first two years.

In addition, an expansion draft allows a new team to select one unprotected player from each of the eight teams. Existing teams are allowed to protect 20 players. Expansion teams are also allowed an extra player on their roster and can sign three overseas players - instead of the usual two - and keep two of them active for games during the first two years.

The KBO and the eight team presidents reached an agreement to at least allow a ninth team into the league, but other details - including whether a 10th team will be added - have not been reached.

By Ha Nam-jik, Jason Kim [jason@joongang.co.kr]
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