Kim Kwang-hyun to rejoin SSG Landers on record contract
MLB free agent pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun is returning to the KBO on a four-year deal with the SSG Landers worth 15.1 billion won ($12.2 million).
The SSG Landers announced Tuesday that Kim, who left the Incheon club two years ago to play in the majors, will earn 13.1 billion won in annual salary divided over the four years with 2 billion won in incentives. At 15.1 billion won, Kim's contract sets a new record for a multi-year deal in the KBO, beating Lee Dae-ho's previous record of 15 billion won.
The 34-year-old pitcher, who has been in Korea during the offseason, is set to immediately join the club's spring training camp on Wednesday.
Kim debuted with the SK Wyverns, now the Landers, in 2007 and played for the club for 12 seasons before moving to the majors. He had a hugely successful career in the KBO that saw him named MVP at age 20 and win four Korean Series, leaving Korea with a career 3.27 ERA with 136 wins and 77 losses.
Kim signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2020 and appeared in the bullpen just once before disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic gave him the opportunity to show what he could do as a starter. After two seasons in the majors, Kim has a solid MLB career 2.97 ERA with 10 wins and seven losses.
Kim ended the 2021 season without an offer to return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2022 season. Although the Cardinals didn't appear to be interested, Kim remained a serious MLB prospect, and had been touted as a possible FA pick for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Minnesota Twins, the Cardinals and a number of other teams.
But with the MLB in lockdown since Dec. 2 and the start of the 2022 season now canceled due to an ongoing dispute between players and club owners, Kim was left to either seek a contract elsewhere or wait indefinitely on the off chance that a major league club wanted to talk to him at some unclear point in the future when the dispute is finally resolved.
Kim isn't the only player that could well have been in the majors this season had circumstances been different to look elsewhere. Some big names have already decided to take the leap to other leagues — Yasiel Puig joining the Kiwoom Heroes, for example — rather than wait and gamble on a new MLB contract arriving in the spring.
"I was able to play a more advanced form of baseball and learn a lot about the importance of fans while in the majors," Kim was quoted as saying by the JoongAng Ilbo. "While I was playing in the United States, I thought that I'd like to play for the Landers one day as the owner and SSG are actively engaged in developing the team and the league."
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]