SEOUL, Dec. 17 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korean free agent outfielder Kim Hyun-soo departed for Washington on Thursday, amid speculation over his future in Major League Baseball (MLB).
The 27-year-old is apparently close to signing his first big league contract. His trip comes a few days after the Baltimore Sun reported that the Baltimore Orioles had offered the left fielder a two-year deal worth US$3 million to US$4 million per season.
After Kim departed for the United States, Dan Connolly, who covers the O’s for the Sun, tweeted that Kim has agreed to a two-year contract for $7 million, pending a physical. The club has yet to make an announcement on the move.
Kim didn’t attend the annual MLB Winter Meetings last week in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kim, who bats left and throws right, became a free agent this year after completing his equivalent of nine full seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
He posted the best power numbers of his KBO career for the Doosan Bears in 2015 with 28 home runs and 121 RBIs, along with a robust .326/.438/.488 line. Long known for his ability to put the ball in play, Kim struck out only 63 times in 630 plate appearances while drawing 101 walks. Kim is a career .318 hitter, the second-highest average among all active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, and has a career on-base percentage of .406.
Dan Duquette, the O’s executive vice president of baseball operations, has a long history of tapping into the Asian market. While he was the general manager for the Boston Red Sox from 1994 to 2002, Duquette signed three South Korean pitchers — Kim Sun-woo, Cho Jin-ho and Lee Sang-hoon — all of whom reached the majors during his tenure.
With Duquette in the fold, the Orioles previously signed three South Korean pitchers, including former KBO MVP Yoon Suk-min. Yoon spent one year in the O’s minor league and never reached the majors.
When asked about the report that the O’s had offered Kim a two-year deal, Duquette said earlier this week, “We’re still looking for left-handed hitting and we’re going to continue to work on that this week.”
Kim is represented by Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group (WMG). The Atlanta Braves and the Oakland Athletics were among other teams that apparently took interest in Kim, who can also play first base.
Kim finds himself in a crowded market for outfielders, however, with All-Stars Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Alex Gordon still unsigned.
During the KBO Golden Glove Awards ceremony on Dec. 8, Kim said that his future would likely be determined, one way or another, “within 10 days.”