Hyun Soo Kim Returns to Korea

Sometimes you have to take one step back before you take two steps forward. It appears the wave of Korean players coming to the United States to play major league baseball is crashing back into the ocean as many players return to Korea. Hyun Soo Kim is the third Korean player to return. He signed with the LG Twins, who were willing to pay him $10.6 million for four years. Kim would have had to settle for a minor league contact if he had stayed in the United States.

Former KBO MVP Byung-Ho Park returned to the Nexxen Heroes, signing for $1.38 million after he could not find a major league stadium last year. He spent all of last season in the minor leagues struggling to make contact, after being sent their midway through the 2016 season. He still had two years left on his major league contract with the Twins but sacrificed that for the opportunity to return to Korea.

Jae-Gyun Hwang got a cup of coffee with the San Francisco Giants last year, struggled and then was returned to the minor leagues where he spent most of his time. After the season he was released by the Giants, allowing him to return to Korea where he signed a four year contract for $8.8 million with the KT Wiz.

It is still unclear what will happen to Jung-Ho Kang, who has been unable to get a work visa to return to the United States to play baseball after his third drunk driving conviction. Kang was the first of this wave, achieving some success with the Pirates his first two seasons. He recently went to the Dominican Republic to play baseball after being inactive for all of 2017, struggled and was released. The Pirates seem to accept the fact that he will not be returning to the United States and are setting up their roster for another year without him. Kang may want to negotiate out of the contract, since he is not being paid while suspended and see if he can sign with another KBO club. The KBO clubs may be reluctant to sign him after his drunk driving convictions and his absence from baseball.

No new Koreans were signed as free agents or posted by their Korean clubs. The biggest impact from the KBO are ex-major leaguers who return from Korea to play major league baseball, like the Brewers Eric Thames.

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