Korean in US minor leagues to opt out of contract without call-up

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Jun 27, 2017 - 20:21
  • Updated : Jun 28, 2017 - 09:38

South Korean minor leaguer Hwang Jae-gyun said Tuesday he will opt out of his contract with the San Francisco Giants if he doesn't make the big league club by the weekend.

Hwang said in an interview carried on a South Korean portal site that he'll exercise his contractual right to opt out of his deal if he isn't called up by the Giants by July 1. He will then become a free agent, in which case he can either try to land with another major league club or return to the Korea Baseball Organization, where he'd spent the first 10 years of his pro career.

South Korean baseball player Hwang Jae-gyun listens to a question from reporters at Incheon International Airport after signing with the San Francisco Giants on Jan. 25, 2017. (Yonhap)

The 29-year-old signed a split contract with the Giants in January, meaning the club would offer Hwang different salaries for the time spent in the majors and the minors.

Hwang had a productive spring training, leading the team with 15 RBIs while batting .333 with five home runs in 27 games. The third baseman, however, failed to make the 25-man Opening Day roster, and has been playing with the Triple-A Sacramento since then.

Hwang is batting .287 with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 68 games with Sacramento. He has mostly split his time at third base and first base, and has made two starts in left field.

Hwang, who enjoyed an All-Star career in the KBO, had his best offensive season in 2016 with the Lotte Giants. He had a .335/.394/.570 line, with 27 home runs and 113 RBIs, all of them career-highs, while swiping 25 bases and cutting down on strikeouts from 122 in 2015 to 66.

The San Francisco Giants had shown interest in Hwang in the past but didn't give him the full major league contract he'd desired.

Hwang appeared to have played his way into the big league lineup in spring training, but the Giants instead sent him to Triple-A and have kept him there since.

In the meantime, the Giants have called up other infielders like Christian Arroyo, Conor Gillaspie and Ryder Jones over the course of their disastrous 28-51 season. They're dead last in the National League West and have the second-worst record in the entire Major League Baseball.

If Hwang decides to return to the KBO, he'll be able to speak to his former club, the Lotte Giants, and eight of the remaining nine clubs. The Samsung Lions aren't eligible to sign Hwang under league rules, because they signed two free agents from other clubs in the winter. Two other teams, Kia Tigers and LG Twins, have said they aren't interested in Hwang.

With his powerful bat and solid defense at hot corner, Hwang could help turn Lotte's fortunes around. The KBO's Giants were 33-39 before Tuesday's action, in seventh place and 4.5 games out of the wild card spot given to the fifth-ranked team. (Yonhap)