The Samsung Lions' closer Oh Seung-hwan decided on Monday to stay with his South Korean club for 2013 and put his dreams of playing overseas on hold, team officials said Monday.
Song Sam-bong, general manager of the Korea Baseball Organization club, said Oh, the league's all-time saves leader, told him in their meeting he would pitch one more season for the Daegu-based team before testing the free agent market.
The Lions have won the past two KBO championships. Song said he told Oh the Lions would need his service in their pursuit of a third straight title.
"We told him he will be a critical piece of our puzzle next year," Song said. "Oh said he will stick around for one more year."
Earlier, the hard-throwing right-hander had sought opportunities to play in Japan. He completed his seventh full season in 2012 and became eligible to play overseas, on the condition the Lions would consent to let him test the market.
The Lions, though, never budged.
Once Oh completes his eighth season, he will become a free agent but will only be able to exercise his rights in the KBO. The pitcher will still need the Lions' consent to try to move to Japan.
Under the KBO's free agency rule, it will not be until after the 2014 season that Oh will be able to sign with any foreign club as he wishes, with or without the Lions' approval.
Song, the general manager, said the team has not guaranteed it will agree to let him leave for Japan next year.
"We don't know how things will change over the next year," he said. "We told Oh we will discuss his future again after the end of next season."
Since his debut in 2005, Oh has been a pillar of the Lions' bullpen and helped them win four championships during his career. He was named the Korean Series MVP in 2005 and 2011.
Oh already owns the all-time career saves record in the KBO with 249. He holds the single-season saves record with 47, which he set in 2006 and matched in 2011.
In 458 2/3 career innings, Oh has struck out 571 batters and has an ERA of 1.69. He has led the KBO in saves in five different seasons. (Yonhap News)