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KBO’s final foreign player signed

Dec 29,2018
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Mel Rojas Jr.
KBO clubs completed their foreign player signing for the 2019 season on Friday, as the KT Wiz filled their last open spot by re-signed American slugger Mel Rojas Jr.

The Wiz said Rojas agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.6 million. He will receive $500,000 as a signing bonus and $1 million in salary, and can make $100,000 in incentives.

Rojas played all 144 games for the Wiz this past season, batting .305 with 43 home runs and 114 RBIs. He was one of five players in the 2018 season to hit 40 home runs or more. He finished tied for second, along with Jamie Romak of the SK Wyverns and Park Byung-ho of the Heroes in the home run race and was paid $1 million.

The 28-year-old, the son of former major league pitcher Mel Rojas, joined the Wiz in June 2017 and recorded .301 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 88 games in his KBO debut season.

With Rojas, the Wiz completed their foreign player roster for the 2019 season. The Wiz, who finished ninth in the 10-team league in the 2018 season, had already signed pitchers Raul Alcantara and William Cuevas.

Rojas is the last foreign player to sign a contract for the 2019 season. KBO clubs are each permitted a maximum of two foreign pitchers and one foreign position player.

Rojas signed the third-most lucrative contract for a foreign player in the 2019 season. Doosan Bears pitcher Josh Lindblom can make up to $1.92 million next year, followed by Samsung Lions slugger Darin Ruf, who recently inked a deal worth $1.7 million.

In this year’s foreign player signings, the Bears were the biggest spenders, at $3.85 million. This is quite a surprise as the Bears are normally loath to splash out on new players, from overseas or domestically.

While the Bears retained their two foreign pitchers, the club also brought in a new fielder, Jose Miguel Fernandez at $700,000. The Bears were extra careful when filling their last position player spot as they struggled to find a player to fill the slot in 2018, spending most of the season with one foreign player less than the rest of the league.

The Heroes spent the least this year at $1.9 million. The Heroes re-signed two players - pitcher Jake Brigham at $900,000 and outfielder Jerry Sands at $500,000 - and newly signed pitcher Eric Jokisch at $500,000. The Heroes are the only club in the KBO to spend less than $2 million on foreign players this year.

Considering the total spending, the NC Dinos were by far the biggest spenders this year. The Dinos brought in three new foreign players and spent the maximum $1 million on all three. Domestically, the Dinos started their investment by re-signing a three-year contract with free agent Mo Chang-min. Then, the Dinos signed a four-year contract with free agent catcher Yang Eui-ji at 12.5 billion won ($11.2 million). In addition to player signings, the Dinos will be a completely new team as they will move to a new stadium in Changwon under the direction of new manager Lee Dong-woo.

The Kia Tigers was the only other team to sign all new names in their roster for foreign players. The Tigers originally planned on re-signing pitcher Hector Noesi but weren’t able to due to high taxes. As a result, the Tigers newly signed pitchers Joe Wieland and Jacob Turner and fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.

The LG Twins re-signed pitcher Tyler Wilson and newly signed pitcher Casey Kelly and fielder Tommy Joseph. The Lotte Giants also re-signed foreign pitcher Brooks Raley and newly added pitcher Jake Thompson and Carlos Asuaje.

The Samsung Lions brought in two new foreign pitchers - Justin Haley and Dec McGuire. The Hanwha Eagles also managed to retain slugger Jared Hoying, but newly signed pitchers Warwick Saupold and Chad Bell.

The 2018 Korean Series Champion SK Wyverns didn’t make many changes to their foreign players, as they re-signed slugger Jamie Romak and pitcher Angel Sanchez. The club added pitcher Brock Dykxhoorn.

Starting in the 2019 season, the KBO has introduced a new rule that caps foreign player salaries at $1 million, including signing bonus and incentives. This regulation doesn’t apply to existing players.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]