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Yoon Seok-min returns from Baltimore to Kia for record pay

Yoon Seok-min returns from Baltimore to Kia for record pay

Posted March. 07, 2015 08:04,   


This happened at the Kia Tigers’ wrap-up training camp held in Hyuga City in Miyazaki, Japan in November last year. A player wearing the Baltimore Orioles’ orange cap stood out among the Kia players, who were wearing red uniforms. It was Yoon Seok-min, 29, who had joined the Major League Baseball. After only playing in the Minor League in the U.S. last year, he was undergoing training with Kia players who were younger than him, vowing to recover his lost fame and reputation. Yoon`s return to his previous Korean pro team might have been ordained from the moment.

The Kia Tigers said on Friday that it signed a four-year contract worth a 9 billion won (8.19 million U.S. dollars), which included 4 billion won in down payment plus 1.25 billion won in annual salary, the record amount in the history of Korean professional baseball, with Yoon who had been released from Baltimore.

Yoon, who moved to Baltimore in late 2013 in a three-year contract worth a total of 5.75 million dollars, has thus returned to Korea just after one season in the U.S. Yoon’s deal is the largest amount for a free agent that exceeds the 8.6 billion won that SK Wyverns’ third baseman Choi Jeong was set to earn for choosing to stay foot in the team for four years in November last year.

Upon returning to Korea from the U.S. on the day, Yoon said, “I wanted to continue my challenge at the Major League, but I have decided to play for Kia due to its earnest request.” It is apparently good news for Kia fans. Considering the situation that Kia is considered the weakest team in the Korean league, the team has thus gained a major boost in its capacity.

However, not a few people are critical of the deal. Yoon only had four wins and eight losses with an ERA of 5.74 at the Triple A Norfolk Tides last year. It is not a desirable situation that Yoon who was underperforming even in the Minor League is set to receive the record pay ever in the Korean league. It is also regrettable that Yoon’s challenge at the Major League has ended in anticlimax. In 2011 when he enjoyed strongest pitching capacity, he won quadruple crowns (most wins, ERA, number of strikeouts, winning rate). He would often pitch fastballs exceeding 150 km per hour and sliders exceeding 140 km per hour.

Yoon saw his pitching capacity sharply wane in the Minor League last year. He had fastballs in the mid 140 km per hour range, and sliders at the upper 130 km per hour range. He had the slump because he failed to develop his physical conditions adequately due to delays in contract with Baltimore.

Moreover he had the right to deny Minor League beginning this year. If Baltimore promoted to him to the Major League, the team had no choice but to waste a player in its roster. Manager Buck Showalter did neither include Yoon in his team’s roster for the Major League and nor did he invite him as an invited player. He already had excluded Yoon from the team’s roster. Since Yoon had a three-year guarantee contract, Baltimore had to pay him his annual salary for the remaining two years (4.15 million dollars), even if he stayed in the Minor League. For this reason, the U.S. team released him as free agent just for one dollar when Kia sought to bring him back.

Vice President Dan Duquette, who spearheaded Yoon’s recruitment, told an interview with local media, “We were able to fix a mistake (Yoon’s recruitment). We will invest money saved this time in other players.” Showalter also briefly commented, “I hope Yoon does well. It is a good thing for him and good thing for us.”

Yoon may as well feel regret that he was not given adequate opportunities, but he cannot blame anyone but himself. No Major League team will give many chances to a player who displays lackluster performance even in the Minor League.

Now the ball is in Yoon’s court. Kia enabled him to regain his self-confidence by paying him the record amount of pay. Manager Showalter, who previously managed the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1998 to 2000, would deploy Kim Byeong-hyun as closing pitcher. Kim displayed strong pitching capacity at the time, but the primary reason for Kim’s success was he was the player who worked harder than anyone else in the team. Yoon should ask himself whether he made efforts on par with Kim. He needs to become more desperate in baseball so as not to feel ashamed of him any longer.