Major League Baseball (MLB) has tendered a status check on the South Korean pitcher Yoon Suk-min, baseball officials here said Friday, a formal administrative step before a big league club can sign any professional player from here.
According to the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), MLB on Friday asked for Yoon's status in the top domestic league. The KBO said it informed MLB that Yoon, 27, is currently under contract with the Kia Tigers and will be eligible for free agency after the end of the ongoing postseason.
Under an agreement between MLB and the KBO, a big league team interested in a South Korean player must go through the status check through the league offices.
Yoon, voted the MVP here in 2011 after winning the pitching Triple Crown, left for the United States on Monday to discuss his future options with his agent, Scott Boras.
The three-time KBO All-Star has a career record of 73-59 with 44 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 303 appearances. In 1,129 innings, he has struck out 949 batters and walked 345.
The highlight of his career came in 2011, when he captured the pitching Triple Crown as the league leader with 17 wins, a 2.45 ERA and 178 strikeouts. and earned his first MVP honors.
Yoon is also known for holding Venezuela to two runs on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings as South Korea defeated the South American team of MLB All-Stars 10-2 in the semifinals of the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
He was sidelined at the start of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, and was limited to 87 2/3 innings. He was 3-6 with seven saves in 30 appearances, 11 of them starts, with a 4.00 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Yoon can reach up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastball, and also throws a hard slider at about 140 kilometers. He lost some bite on his fastball this year with shoulder problems.
He completed his seventh KBO season after winning the 2011 MVP, and was thus eligible to be posted for a silent auction among interested MLB clubs with the Tigers' consent. The Tigers, however, didn't grant Yoon his wish to test the big league market, saying they needed Yoon to compete for a title here.
Yoon also required the team's approval to pursue a major league contract after the 2012 season and the Tigers also declined.
Now that he's played nine years, Yoon can exercise his rights as a full-fledged free agent and doesn't require a green light from the Tigers to sign with an overseas club.
During his stay, Yoon watched fellow South Korean Ryu Hyun-jin pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers at home against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS). Ryu threw seven scoreless innings to pick up his first MLB postseason victory.
Ryu signed with the Dodgers last December via posting. His KBO club, the Hanwha Eagles, agreed to post the left-hander after he completed seven seasons here. The Dodgers submitted the highest bid for the right to negotiate with the pitcher, and inked him to a six-year, US$36 million contract. He, too, is represented by Boras.
Ryu, a former KBO MVP and Rookie of the Year, enjoyed a successful rookie season, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. He struck out 154 batters and walked 49 in 192 innings. Among the NL rookies, Ryu ranked first in innings pitched and in quality starts, and second in ERA.
Media reports out of the U.S. have claimed that the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees are interested in Yoon. The pitcher has previously said he would like to become a starter in the big leagues. (Yonhap News)