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Baseball players' association rejects league's proposals for free agency changes

All Headlines 14:19 October 01, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) -- The interest group representing South Korean professional baseball players on Monday rejected the top league's proposed changes to free agency.

The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) said it was rushed into making a decision by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) and that it didn't believe the league's proposals would have the desired effects.

On Sept. 19, the KBO suggested placing a cap on the length and the value of free agent contracts -- four years at a maximum of 8 billion won (US$7.2 million) total -- and also reducing the number of seasons a player must put in before becoming a free agent.

Kim Sun-woong, secretary general of the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA), speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Oct. 1, 2018, on changes to free agency in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) as proposed by the league office. The KPBPA rejected the KBO's suggestions on the grounds that they wouldn't have the desired effects. (Yonhap)

Currently, there are no limits to the length or monetary value of free agent contracts. To be eligible for free agency, high school graduates must play nine full seasons, while players who join the KBO after college must play eight full seasons. Those terms would be eight and seven years, respectively, under the KBO's ideas.

The KBO also sought to divide free agents into three different classes based on their salaries over the five most recent seasons and to adjust the current compensation accordingly.

Today, a club that signs a free agent must pay the player's previous club twice the amount of that player's previous salary and send a player not on the protected list, or three times the amount of the player's salary from the previous season. Under the KBO's proposals, financial compensation will be less burdensome for teams signing free agents in the lowest class.

At a press conference in Seoul, Kim Sun-woong, secretary general of the KPBPA, questioned the timing of the start of the discussion. He said he received the KBO's suggestions on Sept. 19, while the players were locked in a tight pennant race. Kim also said it didn't give nearly enough time for the KPBPA to properly negotiate terms with the KBO, which wanted to implement changes this winter.

"If the KBO wanted to put new rules into effect after this season, it should have started this discussion a long time ago, out of respect for the clubs and their players," Kim said. "And with the start of the postseason just around the corner, talks of changes to free agency can be distractions to players."

This undated file image provided by the Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA) shows the association's logo. (Yonhap)

Recent offseasons have seen a rise of massive deals worth more than 10 billion won in total value, and teams have complained that the open market is out of control and has put undue amount of strain on their finances.

Kim said he had reservation about the cap on free agent deals and of the classification of free agents.

"There is no guarantee that the money that clubs save from the salary cap on top-tier free agents will be spent on players in the lower echelons," Kim said. "Teams are only intent on cutting costs on players. If they can't afford to sign top players in free agency, they should try to develop more homegrown talent and find other ways to save money."

The KPBPA, which isn't a union, said its rejection on Monday didn't mean a complete end to the talks with the KBO.

"After the end of the postseason, we'd be willing to keep talking with the KBO and the clubs so that we can come up with a system that benefits everyone," Kim said. "I think the league should try to address the fundamental cause of the existing problems, rather than come up with measures that will only lead new problems."


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