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Invitation Only, The KBO FA

Posted November. 28, 2007 03:08,   


W800 million →W2.7 billion → W4 billion → W6 billion →?

In the Hot Stove League, the war of the dollars is on. Free agent (FA) Kim Dong-ju has turned down an offer of W6.2 billion over four years from Doosan, the greatest amount offered in the history of Korean baseball, and entered the free agent market. The Hot Stove League is a gold mine for superstar FAs, but for sub par FAs, it can be a nightmarish period of uncertainty. Of the 20 FAs who had the chance to declare free agency, only six put themselves out and up for grabs.

Contrasting Fates Await FAs-

The FA system was established in 2000. Back then, Kim Dong-su (LG to Samsung) and Lee Kang-cheol (Haitai to Samsung) both signed a W800 million 3-year contract. This development leads more players to enter the FA market with brimming hopes of a bigger paycheck. With time, the highest paycheck signed by a FA rose to W6 billion (offered to Shim Jeong-su) over five years.

“Big Money or Bust”-

Sixteen players qualified to enter the FA market initially. Nine players have started 10 seasons, but only five of them applied. Among them, Song Yoo-seok (formerly LG) and Kim Jeong-su (formerly Haitai) weren’t signed by any team, and had to come back to their former team with their tails between his legs. As a result, Kim had to endure a pay cut from W72 million to W50 million, and it was only a matter of time they were traded to other teams soon after. Lesson learned: if you can’t make it big in the FA market, your career is possibly in dire jeopardy.

Tug of War between KBO and the Players’ Association-

The regulations of the league make it difficult for teams to acquire free agents. A team that acquires a player through free agency must pay 300 percent of the FA’s previous salary plus send an unprotected player of their own to the other team, or pay 450 percent of the FA’s previous salary only to the other team. If a team has acquired an FA with a W500 million salary, they must pay W1.5 billion along with one of their unprotected players to the FA’s former team, or pay a whopping sum of W2.25 billion without having to give up one of their unprotected players.

The Players’ Association is requesting the KBO to consider revising such regulations.

Secretary General Na Jin-gyun said, “The current FA policy has become a jackpot game to the advantage of select players, and this was not the initial intent of establishing the policy. The KBO needs to revise this policy. Otherwise we will report the matter to the Fair Trade Commission.”

To this comment, the KBO responded by saying that the current FA policy works for the organization. KBO’s Operating Manager Jeong Geum-jo said, “We do not have a great pool of players, and if not for the FA policy, there would not have been any Korean players who could get the chance to play in the Major Leagues.” He added, “We reviewed the current FA player rating and evaluating system, but there are too many finer details that needs to be worked on in order to achieve this.” He also explained that even if the policy is revised, it will not be a great change from the current system.

It’s ironic that the Hot Stove League is not exactly as hot as it seems to some FAs.