Clubs that have become ‘long-term’ in front of foreign players…
In recent years, foreign player A, who played in the KBO league, was finally brought back after showing lower-than-expected performance. However, the reason for the sluggishness was unique. A was taking a pill like swallowing vitamins on the American stage, where he was ahead with his unique constitution. The drug, which was not a problem in the US, was included in the ban in the KBO league. It was an embarrassing time for both the players who did not even guess that the KBO league’s range of prohibited drugs would be different, and the clubs who did not think that unexpected variables other than injuries would occur. The club searched for alternative drugs that could be used in the KBO league, but in the end, it could not save the player like a player.
The player in question almost had a full guarantee contract, so there was nothing to lose financially. But the club was different. I had to spend time looking for a related specialist and waiting for the player to recover, and I had to open the safe again while looking for a new foreign player, and I had to suffer from double or triple pain.
The current KBO league foreigner system, where 3 people are registered for 3 people and 2 people participate per game, is becoming more dependent on ‘luck’ like a lottery ticket where you can find out the answer only by scratching. It is a structure in which the fate of the team can depend on the health of foreign players in areas that the club cannot calculate. This season, too, Hanwha, SSG, NC, and Doosan are facing the season with a foreign pitcher vacancy, and so far they have not been able to fill the vacancy.
This is the reason why discussions related to the foreign player system change and ‘alternative foreign system’, which have been raised as major agenda items at the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) Executive Committee (head meeting) to be held on the 25th, seem to proceed in depth.
Most of the domestic players spend a season in intra-team competition. Even a starting player may have to fight for a spot with an up-and-coming prospect or an experienced veteran in the position. However, in the current foreign player system of domestic professional baseball, foreign players know for themselves that there is no card that can replace them due to the structure of the club.
Foreign players also compete fiercely in Japanese professional baseball, which limits first-team registration to four players with unlimited possession. For example, Andrew Suarez, who played an ace-class performance at LG in the 2021 season and joined Yakult the following year, failed to overcome the competition and appeared in only six games in the first team. He spent most of the season in the second team, appearing in 15 games. Yakult retained Suarez for insurance purposes and did not give him the freedom to leave. In the KBO League system, the moment you use another player in the first team, you have no choice but to release Suarez while taking care of all the money you promised.
The KBO executive committee starts discussions starting with a ‘part-time’ foreign player system that fills the position of a foreign player with an injury for a certain period of time, but it seems that the discussion will expand to the introduction of a fostering type or the registration of 3 people to 4 people.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, the introduction of the new system seems to be effective. This is because even now, it is common for foreign players to be replaced up to twice and financial bleeding continues.
There is a case of Christopher Mercedes,안전놀이터 who played for Yomiuri in Japanese professional baseball and belonged to Chiba Lotte this season. Mercedes started playing for Yomiuri as a training player for 5 million yen (approximately 49 million won) in 2016 and appeared in 13 games as an alternative starting resource in 2018, recording 5 wins and an average ERA of 2.05. For Yomiuri, it is a case of investing in a ‘compact car’ and getting a ‘Benz’.
If you can meet three foreign players who are good at baseball, healthy, diligent and sincere every season, there is no reason to touch the foreign player system. But the reality is not. In the current system, the club in front of foreign players has become the existence of ‘Mannyeon Eul’. In order to find a turning point, the club itself needs to expand the range of choices within the team. Foreign players themselves must create a situation in which minimum competition is inevitable.
The core of the foreigner system to be discussed in this executive committee is right here.