SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean prospect Bae Ji-hwan’s contract with the Atlanta Braves has been voided by Major League Baseball (MLB), as part of the league’s sanctions on the club for its signing violations.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement on Wednesday, detailing the Braves’ infractions. Manfred said the Braves offered Bae “extra-contractual compensation” when they signed the 18-year-old earlier this year.
“I am… disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective,” Manfred said.
Manfred said the Braves circumvented the international signing rules on a dozen players, who have all been released from their contracts with the Braves. They’re now free agents eligible to sign with any other team, Manfred said.
The Braves announced their signing of Bae, shortstop with Kyeongbuk High School in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Sept. 23.
Bae was a member of the runner-up South Korean team at the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) U-18 Baseball World Cup in Thunder Bay, Canada, in September. He played in all nine games for South Korea, batting .286 (8-for-28) with five RBIs, six runs scored, six walks and two steals.
At all national competitions this year, Bae batted .474 (45-for-95) in 27 games.
Bae had been one of the most coveted prospects to come out of high school this year. He skipped the annual draft for the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the top domestic competition, where he would have been a top-five pick.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Bae would be declared eligible to enter the KBO draft next year or would become a free agent right away. Under the KBO rules, players who sign their first professional contract overseas aren’t eligible to play in the KBO for two years if they decide to return home.
Bae is an increasingly rare breed of South Korean players who bypassed pro ball at home to sign with a big league club right away.
He would have become the first to go from a Korean high school to the United States since outfielder Kwon Kwang-min, who signed a US$1.2 million deal with the Chicago Cubs in August 2015 out of Seoul’s Jangchung High School.
In recent years, it’s been mostly KBO professionals moving to the majors, either via posting or free agency.