South Korean pitcher Kim Byung-hyun has signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the top-flight Japanese professional baseball league, ending winter-long speculation about his playing future.
The Nippon Professional Baseball club announced late Wednesday that Kim, a former Major League Baseball All-Star, has inked a one-year deal worth $400,690. The right-hander with a submarine delivery will compete for the role as the Eagles’ closer for manager Senichi Hoshino.
“I know the team has high expectations for me, and I want to live up to them,” Kim said, according to a club statement.
Kim made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999. Over a nine-year MLB career with four clubs, Kim put up 54 wins and 86 saves along with a 4.42 ERA in 394 games.
Kim Byung-hyun(Yonhap News)
Kim spent 2010 with the Orange County Flyers in the U.S. Golden Baseball League, an independent league not affiliated with MLB. In February 2010, Kim signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants but was released about a month later. In 2009, Kim suffered the same fate with the Pittsburgh Pirates, joining the National League team as a free agent in February that year and getting released in March.
Kim had been linked with Rakuten all offseason, with earlier reports from Japanese sports papers claiming that the pitcher botched a tryout with the Golden Eagles because he was out of shape.
Kim is among six South Koreans in the NPB this season, joining ex-major leaguer Park Chan-ho and Lee Seung-yeop of the Orix Buffaloes, Kim Tae-kyun of the Chiba Lotte Marines, Lee Beom-ho of the SoftBank Hawks and Lim Chang-yong of the Yakult Swallows.