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MLB tenders status checks on 6 free agents in S. Korea

All Headlines 18:02 November 18, 2016

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- Major League Baseball (MLB) has tendered status checks on six South Korean players, officials here said Friday.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said MLB inquired about the status of six players -- Kim Kwang-hyun, Cha Woo-chan, Yang Hyun-jong, Woo Kyu-min, Hwang Jae-gyun and Choi Hyoung-woo. The KBO informed its counterpart that all six players are free agents and are eligible to sign with any club, domestic or foreign.

Under an agreement between MLB and the KBO, a major league team interested in a South Korean player must conduct the status check through the league office.

The status check must be done for professional and amateur players alike. Once MLB requests a status check, the KBO must respond within four business days. MLB must keep the identity of big league clubs inquiring about the Korean players' status confidential.

Among them, MLB had already asked about the status of Kim and Cha, the two All-Star left-handers, last Tuesday. With the latest status check request, this means each of the two pitchers is drawing interest from at least two different ball clubs.

This computer-generated image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows South Korean free agent baseball players superimposed on a baseball field. From left are Cha Woo-chan, Kim Kwang-hyun, Choi Hyoung-woo and Yang Hyun-jong. (Yonhap)

Kim has been pitching for the SK Wyverns since 2007. The 2008 KBO MVP has been a mainstay on the national team at the Olympics, the Asian Games and the World Baseball Classic.

Kim was posted after the 2014 season and entered contract talks with the San Diego Padres. After their negotiations broke down, the 28-year-old returned to the SK Wyverns and pitched two more seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Kim was 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA this year but was limited to 137 innings with elbow problems. He is 108-63 with a 3.41 ERA in his 10-year career.

Cha has been with the Samsung Lions since his debut in 2006. Though his counting stats aren't overly impressive -- 70-48 with a 4.44 ERA -- the 29-year-old has been one of the KBO's most versatile pitchers. This year, Cha went 12-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 24 appearances.

Yang is another premier left-hander. The 28-year-old went 10-12 with a 3.68 ERA this season, but he ate up 200 1/3 innings. Overall, he is 87-60 with a 3.95 ERA in his 10-year career.

Yang, who won the ERA title in 2015, was previously posted for MLB teams, but his KBO club, the Kia Tigers, declined to accept the winning bid for the pitcher.

Woo is a right-hander who had 10-year stints with the LG Twins. He went 6-11 with a 4.91 ERA this season, but he posted double-digit wins in the KBO from 2013 to 2015. The 31-year-old also represented South Korea at the inaugural Premier 12 tournament last year.

Woo is 56-58 with a 3.74 ERA in his 10-year career. He also has 65 saves.

Hwang is a 10-year veteran infielder in the KBO. The 29-year-old enjoyed his most productive season ever in 2016. He batted .335/.394/.570 with 27 home runs and 113 RBIs for the Lotte Giants, all of them career highs.

The All-Star third baseman is scheduled to hold a showcase before major league scouts in Florida on Monday. Hwang was posted for major league clubs last year, but he didn't draw any bids.

Choi, 32, also enjoyed his most productive season to date, winning his first batting title with a .376 average and his second RBI crown with 144 in 138 games this season for the Lions.

Choi, who plays in left field, belted 31 home runs for his third straight 30-homer season while leading the league with 195 hits, 46 doubles, 338 total bases and the on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of 1.115. The lefty slugger was voted second in the KBO MVP award on Monday.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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