Yang Hyeon-jong of the Kia Tigers pitches against the NC Dinos in the bottom of the fourth inning of a Korea Baseball Organization regular season game at Changwon NC Park in Changwon, 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul on Oct. 13, 2020. (Yonhap)
Major League Baseball (MLB) has checked on the availability of South Korean free agent pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong, league officials here said Monday, a move indicating newfound interest in the left-hander.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said MLB tendered a status check on Yang last Friday and that it informed its US counterpart that Yang is a free agent and may sign with any big league club.
Under an agreement between MLB and the KBO, a major league team interested in a South Korean player, professional or amateur, must send the status check through the league offices. Once MLB requests a status check, the KBO must respond within four business days. In these instances, MLB must not reveal the identity of big league clubs inquiring about the Korean players' status.
Yang became a free agent after the 2020 season with the Kia Tigers. At the end of January, Yang turned down a multiyear offer to stay with the Tigers to pursue his big league dreams, although he hadn't generated much buzz in the open market up to that point.
The 32-year-old has spent his entire 14-year career with the Tigers. He won two Korean Series titles with them, in 2009 and in 2017, and was both the regular season MVP and Korean Series MVP in 2017.
The veteran starter had a disappointing 2020 season, with a 11-10 record in 31 starts with a 4.70 ERA, his highest as a full-time starter.
Yang previously tried to reach the majors in 2014. He was posted by the Tigers that year but couldn't land a deal. A mysterious club won the bidding for the exclusive rights to negotiate with Yang, but the Tigers weren't satisfied with the amount of the winning bid and pulled Yang back from the market.
In each of the ensuing six seasons since deciding to stay with the Tigers, Yang has thrown at least 170 innings. In that span, the workhorse left-hander leads all KBO pitchers with 85 wins, 10 complete games, 925 strikeouts and 1,119 1/3 innings pitched.
In early January, Yang maintained that he wouldn't settle for anything less a fully guaranteed major league contract. Yang has since softened his stance and said he would agree to any deal as long as he's included in a team's 40-man roster -- in which case he wouldn't be guaranteed a major league job and could potentially begin the season in the minors. (Yonhap)