(ATTN: ADDS previous posting cases in last four paras)
By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Oct. 29 (Yonhap) -- The Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Monday they will make star left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin available for posting among Major League Baseball (MLB) clubs this offseason, clearing the way for the pitcher to join the big leagues as early as next year.
The Eagles said they will let the 25-year-old enter a silent auction among interested MLB teams as part of the "posting" process. The KBO club can either accept or reject the highest bid amount following the auction. Once the non-negotiable bid is accepted, the interested MLB team will have the exclusive right to negotiate with the posted player. When the two sides agree on contract terms, the Eagles will then take the bid money as a transfer fee for the player.
On the other hand, the Eagles may also reject any bid, in which case Ryu will remain with the KBO team next year.
Ryu has just completed his seventh year in the KBO and thus became eligible to be posted this offseason under the league rule. However, a team must also give its consent before a player can be posted.
The status of Ryu, one of the KBO's most dominant starting pitchers since his debut out of high school in 2006, had been a hot potato since the end of the regular season earlier this month. Throughout the season, as the Eagles staggered to the last-place finish, Ryu had repeatedly said he wanted to be posted and have a chance to play in the majors in 2013.
However, Kim Eung-yong, named the new Eagles' manager on Oct. 8, was quoted as saying in a media interview last week that Ryu would not be posted this year because the Eagles need him in the rotation next season.
Under the league rule, a player who joins the KBO out of high school, such as Ryu, must play nine full seasons or their equivalent to become a free agent. If the Eagles hadn't agreed to post him this year, Ryu would have had to wait until 2014 to test overseas markets.
Speaking at a youth baseball camp last Saturday, Ryu said he hadn't heard directly from his manager about his future and added that he "believed" the team would grant him his wish.
In Monday's announcement, the Eagles attached one condition -- that Ryu receives an offer appropriate for a pitcher of his caliber. The Eagles said they and the player have agreed not to disclose what would constitute such an offer.
Ryu signed on with an uber-agent Scott Boras last year to begin preparing for a possible career in the majors.
Ryu joined the KBO in 2006 as a second overall draft pick and made an immediate impact, becoming the first player to win both the MVP and the Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. He went 18-6 with a 2.23 earned run average (ERA) and struck out 204 batters, a KBO rookie record.
He averaged almost 15 wins a season from 2006 to 2010, but was limited to nine wins this year on the league's worst team, despite posting a 2.66 ERA. He has led the KBO in strikeouts in five different seasons, and has averaged more than 181 innings per season.
Ryu was an integral part of the South Korean national team that won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finished runner-up at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
The left-hander can reach up to 150 kilometers (93 miles per hour) with his fastball, and major league scouts have said they like his command with his changeup and slider.
Through the Eagles, Ryu expressed gratitude for the opportunity.
"I'd like to thank the Eagles from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be posted, which is the first step toward reaching the major leagues," Ryu said. "Hanwha has helped me develop into the pitcher that I am today. I'd like to reach the big leagues and return the love of all my fans with good performances."
Ryu also added that if he doesn't receive a worthy offer, then he would spend more time "making contributions to the Eagles and the national team" before trying to go overseas later.
Kim Eung-yong, the manager, said he "applauds" Ryu's decision to enter the MLB bidding.
The Eagles said Ryu will stay with the team for offseason training until he is posted.
Four different KBO players have been posted in the past. Left-hander Lee Sang-hoon of the LG Twins commanded US$600,000 in the bidding in 1998 and the Twins rejected the offer. Lee later went to Japan and joined the majors as a free agent.
Pitchers Jin Pil-joong, formerly of the Doosan Bears, and Lim Chang-yong, ex-reliever for the Samsung Lions, drew $25,000 and $650,000, respectively, in December 2002, and their KBO clubs both turned down the bids.
In 2009, relief pitcher Choi Hyang-nam signed with the St. Louis Cardinals following a bid of $101, but he only spent time in the minors before returning to the KBO.
Last December, the Texas Rangers submitted a record $51.7 million bid for the Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. He later signed a six-year deal worth $60 million.
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