Re-entry rush…a ‘shift’ in the replacement foreign player market

There’s a subtle shift in baseball’s replacement foreign player market. KBO “veterans,” who were previously overlooked, have become a priority for recruitment.

KT Wiz officially announced the re-signing of William Cuevas on March 9. Cuevas, who played four seasons with the organization since 2019, was sidelined last 메이저놀이터 May due to an elbow injury. Not only KT, but the Doosan Bears also focused on “veterans.” Doosan is close to re-signing Brandon Waddell (registered name Brandon), who played as a substitute last year. The Bears released Dylan Pyle on the 8th of this month, creating an open spot on the roster.

According to our research, the A’s also checked for players with KBO experience when considering a foreign pitcher. Bringing back a player who hasn’t re-signed isn’t easy for a team. In the past, teams have tried to bring in new faces, but recently, the trend has changed. “Most of the players (who didn’t make it in the U.S.) wanted to come to the Asian leagues,” says a B team scout who was in the country looking for players. “Before, if a player wanted to come, the team wouldn’t let them go, but now, even players who could be released by the team want to stay. Minor league salaries have gone up, and even Double-A players are getting housing this year. They don’t want to change leagues because they’re being treated better.”

In the KBO, the total value of a new foreign player’s contract is capped at a maximum of $1 million (1.3 billion won), including salary, incentives, transfer fees, and signing bonus. The amount of money a replacement foreign player can earn depends on the remaining months (February through November). Starting in February, when the foreign player’s contract begins, the total amount decreases by $100,000 ($130,000) per month. If a player pays a buyout, which is a transfer fee, to his home club, his salary will be even lower.

In March, the New York Times reported that the minor league minimum salary was revised this year. In Triple-A alone, the salary increased from $17,500 (22.6 million won) to $45,800 (59 million won). With salaries more than doubling, including weekly wages, the need to go overseas has largely disappeared. A scout from Team B said, “For players who are a little older, it’s like they want to go to Major League Baseball (MLB) at least once to get some service time and get a little more pension. It’s not a good market for us.”

A scout from Team C said, “With the shrinking of the minors, there are not enough players for MLB. They are holding on to players who are not too old.” In November 2020, the New York Yankees alone announced a reorganization plan to reduce their minor league teams from 10 to 6. As clubs stemmed the outflow of players, they had fewer resources to recruit.

However, KBO veterans are less reluctant to go overseas. They don’t have to adapt to the league. Their performance is also somewhat predictable, so there is less pressure. The head coach of Team D said, “The advantage of (foreign players) coming to Korea is not the same as it used to be. Compared to last year, the replacement time is a little faster. Even MLB teams don’t give up players easily now,” explaining why they focus on ‘experienced players’.

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