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KBO general managers agree in principle to increase foreign player quota

General managers in the top domestic baseball league have agreed in principle to increase the current foreign player quota starting next season, officials said Wednesday.

According to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the executives from 10 clubs, nine current teams plus the expansion KT Wiz that will join the league in 2015, met on Tuesday to discuss the foreign player issue.

Currently, teams are allowed to carry two foreign players on the active roster. The NC Dinos, an expansion club that played their inaugural KBO season in 2013, were permitted three foreign players on their roster.

At their meeting, the general managers agreed that teams will now be able to sign three foreigners and play two of them. The Dinos and the Wiz will be granted four foreign player spots, with up to three of them allowed to suit up for games.

The Dinos will have that benefit for 2014, their second KBO season. The Wiz will enjoy their advantage for their first two seasons, in 2015 and 2016.

According to the KBO, the matter will be further discussed at the board meeting of team presidents sometime in December for final approval. The KBO said it will also have talks with the KBO players' association to fine-tune the proposed change before the idea is submitted to the board.

The KBO, which had its first season in 1982, began allowing foreign players in 1998. In the 2001 and 2002 seasons, teams were allowed to sign three foreign players but play only two of them at the same time. With exception of those two seasons, KBO teams have only been able to sign two players from overseas.

Under the general managers' proposed change, eight clubs other than the Dinos and the Wiz will not be allowed to sign three pitchers or three position players to fill their quota.

For instance, they must sign two pitchers or a position player, or two position players and a pitcher.

The Dinos and the Wiz will be allowed to sign three pitchers and a position player, or two pitchers and two position players, or three position players and one pitcher.

Requesting anonymity, an official who attended Tuesday's meeting said the impending change to the foreign player rule is designed to address the problem with watered-down talent level.

"With more teams in the fold, it's not as easy to acquire good players," the official said. "To help keep fans coming to games and improve the quality of our product on the field, the teams agreed to increase the number of foreign players."

In recent seasons, the KBO has seen some of its brightest stars bolt for overseas leagues. Left-handed pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers last December after seven KBO seasons.

A year before that, slugger Lee Dae-ho left the Lotte Giants here to join the Orix Buffaloes in Japan. Ryu and Lee were both former MVPs here.

This offseason, right-hander Yoon Suk-min of the Kia Tigers, a former MVP-winning pitcher, and right-hander Oh Seung-hwan of the Samsung Lions, the KBO's all-time leader in saves, could land in Major League Baseball or Nippon Professional Baseball.

KBO teams have generally relied heavily on their foreign players for pitching and offensive production, though every team filled its quota with pitchers in the past two seasons.

Former big leaguers such as Julio Franco, Carlos Baerga, Troy O'Leary, Al Martin, Ruben Mateo, Karim Garcia, Tilson Brito, Felix Jose, Ryan Garko and Jose Lima have played in the KBO. (Yonhap News)

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