SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- Kim Byung-hyun, a former All-Star closer in Major League Baseball (MLB), has signed with a South Korean club.
The Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced that they have inked the right-handed submariner to a one-year deal worth 500 million won (US$436,870), with a club option for 100 million won. The team also gave him 1 billion won as a signing bonus.
Kim, who turns 33 on Thursday, played for the Rakuten Eagles in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) last season and was released in November.
The Heroes earned the right to sign Kim in a special draft for overseas-based players in 2007. Back then, the franchise was called the Hyundai Unicorns. The team collapsed under financial pressure in 2008 and was renamed the Heroes under a new corporate ownership.
The Heroes said they had been trying to acquire Kim since 2009, when the pitcher was struggling to stay in the majors.
"It's been a long struggle, and I am happy to see a good result from this," said Lee Jang-seok, the team president. "Acquiring Kim is part of our efforts to make Nexen a stronger ball club."
Kim made his major league debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999. Over a nine-year MLB career with four clubs, Kim had 54 wins and 86 saves along with a 4.42 earned run average (ERA) in 394 games.
Kim earned his lone All-Star selection in 2002. He had a career-high 36 saves with a 2.04 ERA for the Diamondbacks.
After ending 2007 with the Florida Marlins, Kim never returned to the big leagues. In the spring of 2009 and 2010, Kim joined the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants, respectively, only to be released before the season began. He spent 2010 with the Orange County Flyers in the U.S. Golden Baseball League, an independent league not affiliated with MLB.
In the majors, Kim won the World Series with Arizona in 2001, despite giving up a pair of walk-off home runs to the New York Yankees in the seven-game series. Kim earned his second World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004. He remains the only South Korean player with a World Series title.
Lee Jang-seok, the Heroes' president, said Kim's championship experience will have a great impact on the team.
Kim is currently staying in California and is scheduled to arrive in South Korea on Friday, before joining the Heroes in Arizona for training camp.
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