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(2nd LD) S. Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun fails to reach deal with San Diego Padres after rejecting multiyear offer

All Headlines 11:01 December 12, 2014

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES with details in first 8 paras; ADDS background at bottom)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korean pitcher Kim Kwang-hyun failed to reach an agreement with the San Diego Padres by a deadline, Kim's current domestic club announced Friday, with an informed baseball source telling Yonhap News Agency that Kim turned down a multiyear offer.

The SK Wyverns in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said the 26-year-old left-hander will stay at home at least for another season, after he was unable to sign a deal with the Major League Baseball (MLB) club that had 30 days to work out a contract with the pitcher. The deadline fell on 7 a.m. Friday in Seoul, or 2 p.m. Thursday in San Diego.

The Wyverns posted Kim in early November and the Padres won the bidding war with US$2 million, earning themselves an exclusive negotiating right with Kim for 30 days.

The source, privy to major league player transactions, told Yonhap News Agency that Kim rejected a two-year offer worth $2 million, all guaranteed. It had been speculated earlier that the Padres would only offer Kim a minor league or a split contract, which offers different salary rates for a player's time in the majors and the minors, because they didn't see Kim as big league starter material.

Kim had earlier insisted money or his role with the Padres wouldn't be an issue at the negotiating table. He was represented by Melvin Roman, a former player who counts Yadier Molina, the Gold Glove-winning catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, among his clients.

Kim made 270 million won ($244,900) in 2014 with the Wyverns. The KBO players sign annual contracts until they become unrestricted free agents -- after eight seasons for college grads and nine seasons for players who joined the league out of high school -- and Kim is slated for re-signing with the Wyverns. He may get a hefty raise but the Wyverns are unlikely to match what the Padres would have paid Kim.

The KBO's highest-paid player this year was the Hanwha Eagles first baseman Kim Tae-kyun, who made 1.5 billion won.

A.J. Preller, general manager of the Padres, was quoted in the U-T San Diego newspaper as saying, "Just couldn't agree on contract dollar amount."

With the talks with San Diego having fallen through, Kim had two options for next year. He could choose to return to the Wyverns for 2015, or he could enter contract talks with interested clubs in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Wyverns' approval.

The Wyverns said Kim opted to stay home. Kim can't be posted again until Nov. 1, 2015.

In a statement released by the Wyverns, Kim thanked all the parties involved in his pursuit of big league dreams.

"It's disappointing that I wasn't able to reach an agreement with San Diego," Kim said. "But I'd like to thank SK for posting me, and thank San Diego for negotiating in good faith until the end, and my agent for his work. I will do my best back with the Wyverns and I'd like to give Major League another try when the opportunity arises."

Kim became eligible for posting after completing his equivalent of seven full KBO seasons in 2014, which granted him conditional free agency. Kim needed the Wyverns' approval to be posted and the club wasted little time, announcing on the first business day of November that they would post him.

The Wyverns said they weren't too pleased with the amount of the winning bid but accepted it to help Kim realize his dream of pitching in the majors.

However, since the Padres and Kim failed to reach an agreement, the Wyverns won't get to keep that $2 million submitted in the bid.

Kim, the 2008 KBO MVP, went 13-9 with a 3.42 ERA in 28 starts in 2014, bouncing back after struggling with injuries in recent years. He ranked among the top five in the Triple Crown categories of wins, ERA and strikeouts and was one of only six starters to post an ERA under 4.00 in a year of massive offensive numbers.

Ryu Hyun-jin, a left-hander for the Los Angeles Dodgers, remains the only South Korean to jump from the KBO to the big leagues through posting. He signed a six-year, $36 million contract in 2012 after the Dodgers bid about $25.7 million for the rights to talk to him.

In 2009, South Korean right-hander Choi Hyang-nam was posted and the St. Louis Cardinals bid $101 for him. Choi's KBO club, the Lotte Giants, accepted it, but Choi signed a minor league deal and never reached the majors.

Before Choi, three other KBO players were posted. Left-hander Lee Sang-hoon of the LG Twins commanded US$600,000 in the bidding in 1998 but the Twins rejected the offer. Lee later went to Japan and joined the majors as a free agent.

Pitchers Jin Pil-jung, formerly of the Doosan Bears, and Lim Chang-yong, then with the Samsung Lions, drew $25,000 and $650,000, respectively, in December 2002, and their KBO clubs both turned down the bids.

The Wyverns may choose to post Kim again after next season. If Kim pitches two more seasons in the KBO, he will become an unrestricted free agent, a status that will allow him to sign with an MLB club without going through posting. After the 2016 season, Kim also won't need the Wyverns' approval to begin contract talks with any NPB teams.

Kim is one of two KBO players to be posted this offseason. Two weeks after Kim, Yang Hyeon-jong, a left-handed pitcher for the Kia Tigers, was also posted. The Tigers, however, rejected the winning bid from an unidentified big league club, because of its unsatisfactory amount. Yang too has chosen to stay with the Tigers instead of seeking opportunities in Japan.

A third KBO player, shortstop Kang Jung-ho of the Nexen Heroes, is expected to be posted early next week. The 27-year-old could garner some interest after enjoying the best season of his career with 40 home runs, 117 RBIs and a .356 average in 117 games. The home run and RBI totals were both single-season records by a shortstop.

He also set career-highs with a .459 on-base percentage and a .739 slugging percentage.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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