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SEOUL, March 6 (Yonhap) -- Former South Korean baseball MVP Yoon Suk-min has signed a record free agent contract with his ex-club here after a failed stint in the United States, officials announced Friday.
The Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said they have re-acquired the right-hander on a four-year deal worth 9 billion won (US$8.2 million), the largest contract ever handed out to a free agent. Yoon will make 1.25 billion won per season, and received a 4 billion won signing bonus.
The 28-year-old left the Baltimore Orioles, with whom he signed a three-year deal in 2014, and is scheduled to arrive home later Friday. He is reportedly being accompanied by a Tigers official. Baltimore media, including The Baltimore Sun, reported earlier that the O's were trying to finalize a deal to let Yoon walk out of his major league contract.
Yoon, the 2011 MVP in the KBO, never pitched in the majors for the Orioles. After signing his deal in February last year, he joined the Baltimore's spring training behind schedule and was never able to get into the swing of things with the big league club.
In his lone U.S. season with the O's Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Yoon made 23 appearances, 18 of them starts, with a 4-8 record and a 5.74 ERA.
Through the Tigers, Yoon said he's looking forward to a fresh start.
"I wanted to keep trying to reach the majors, but I decided to rejoin Kia because the team really wanted me back," Yoon said. "I'd like to thank Kia fans for supporting me through thick and thin, and I will try to return their love with a strong season."
Yoon was not invited to the O's spring training this year.
Preseason in the KBO starts Saturday. Yoon will be joining a team that has missed the playoffs the past three seasons.
The three-time KBO All-Star has a career record of 73-59 with 44 saves and a 3.19 ERA in 303 appearances. In 1,129 innings, he struck out 949 batters and walked 345. He has been both a starter and a closer in his KBO career.
Reached by phone Friday, Tigers manager Kim Ki-tai said he was "surprised" that the team signed Yoon so quickly.
"It's a great move for me and the rest of the team," Kim said. "I am sure it must have hurt him to give up on his big league dreams as one of the best pitchers in Korea. Our job is to make sure he can settle down here and pitch the way he's capable of pitching."
Kim said he has no doubt about the right-hander's skills.
"He is a great pitcher, and I heard he's been training hard," Kim added. "I believe he will get the job done for us."
The manager said he will give Yoon plenty of time to work himself into game shape, and he hasn't determined a specific role for him yet.
"I will let our pitching coaches check Yoon before setting any specific plans for him," Kim said. "I think he's going to help our team a great deal."
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