Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for KBO players to sign mega-contracts worth $100 million. Playing in the KBO is a much smarter way to settle down than going straight to the US after high school.
In the past, it seemed impossible to play in Korea and then go to the major leagues. The best option was to fly to the U.S., like Park Chan-ho, Kim Byung-hyun, Seo Jae-eung, and Choi Hee-seop, and develop in the minor leagues and become a major leaguer. Otherwise, they would have to play in the KBO, prove themselves in the Japanese league, and then go to the major leagues. Because of the low level of the KBO, no matter how good a player was in the KBO, the major leagues would not offer them a big contract right away.헤라카지노
However, as Korean players showed their skills in international tournaments, the major leagues slowly began to look at Korean baseball differently.
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Hanwha Eagles became the first player to go directly from the KBO to the major leagues when he signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013.
Kang Jeong-ho followed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015 and Park Byung-ho with the Minnesota Twins in 2016.
In 2021, it was a different story when Kim Ha-seong went to the San Diego Padres, signing a four-year, $28 million deal. Ryu was paid more, but the average was higher, and he became a major league starter in three years, winning a Gold Glove.
This time, Lee signed a six-year, $113 million contract with San Francisco. The deal will become official once he passes his medical.
In total, it’s the second-largest contract ever signed by a Korean player, behind the seven-year, $130 million deal that Shin-Soo Choo signed with the Texas Rangers in 2014.
The average annualized value is $18.83 million, which ranks second all-time. The top spot goes to Ryu Hyun-jin, who signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020 ($20 million average).
Ryu, Kim, and Lee have proven that you can play in the KBO and still get a good enough contract to make it to the major leagues.
Currently, the only players in the major leagues who went straight from the KBO to the big leagues through the minors are San Diego’s Choi Ji-Man (32), Oakland Athletics’ Park Hyo-Jun (27), and Pittsburgh’s Bae Ji-Hwan (24).
Recently, there are still players who head to the U.S. straight out of high school. In January, Deoksugo’s Shim Jun-seok, who was ranked No. 1 in high school, signed a $750,000 contract with Pittsburgh, and in August, Yongmago’s Jang Hyun-seok signed a $900,000 contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s not uncommon to see foreign players who have pitched well in the KBO get good contracts in the major leagues and then be exported back, like Eric Peddy of the NC Dinos, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal with the Chicago White Sox after winning the pitching Triple Crown and becoming MVP.
The choice is the player’s, but it’s clear that the KBO is on the rise. Players can grow up playing baseball in the comfort of Korea, being loved by the people and having fun, and then go on to the major leagues. No longer do they have to eat the soggy bread of the minor leagues.