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KBO set for drastic changes including salary cap

Jan 23,2020
Korea’s top professional baseball league announced a series of sweeping changes on Tuesday, including implementation of the league’s first salary cap in 2023.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) held its first board of governors meeting of 2020, with the 10 club presidents on hand to approve the salary cap and other changes.

According to the KBO, the salary cap will be set at 120 percent of the average salary of the 40 highest-paid players from each team, excluding rookies and foreign players, from the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That cap will be adjusted at a board meeting after the 2025 season.

Teams exceeding the cap will be fined and will have their first round draft picks drop by nine slots in the following year.

The KBO will also adopt changes to free agency. After the 2020 season, the league will divide free agents into three different classes based on their salaries over the three most recent seasons and adjust compensation for signing those free agents accordingly.

Currently, 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 in compensation, or pay three times the amount of the player’s salary from the previous season. Under the changes, financial compensation will be less of a burden for teams signing free agents in the lowest class.

Then after the 2022 season, the KBO will reduce the service time requirements for players to hit free agency by one year - to eight years for those drafted out of high school, and to seven years for players coming out of a four-year university.

The minimum wage will be raised from 27 million won ($23,120) to 30 million won starting in 2021.

Beginning in this 2020 season, KBO teams will be able to play all three of their foreign players in the same game. Currently, teams can have three foreign players on their roster, but only two of them can get into the same game. For instance, if a foreign pitcher starts a game and a foreign position player is in the lineup, the second foreign pitcher is not eligible to come out of the bullpen. That will no longer be an issue this year.

KBO teams won’t be allowed to spend more than $4 million on their three foreign players beginning in 2023. The current cap of $1 million on first-year foreign players will remain in place.

And from the 2023 season, clubs will be able to acquire up to two foreign players - one pitcher and one position player - to put on their minor league teams as backups to imports on the KBO rosters. The annual salary for these minor league foreign players may not exceed $300,000.

In another notable change, the injured list will be introduced in 2020. Teams can keep injured players sidelined for 10, 15 or 30 days.

Also starting in the upcoming 2020 season, all defensive players, except for pitchers, will be allowed to use positioning cards or wristbands on the field for information on positioning and, for catchers, sign sequences. In 2019, only outfielders were allowed to use those cards for shifting purposes.

If two teams are tied for first place at the end of the regular season, they’ll square off in the one-and-done game to determine the regular season champion. But if three or more teams are tied at the top, then the head-to-head record will be used to break the tie.

In 2020, weekday games will start at 6:30 p.m., while Saturday games will begin at 5 p.m. Games on Sundays and holidays will start at 2 p.m.

In June, all weekend and holiday games will begin at 5 p.m. In July and August, Saturday games will start at 6 p.m., and Sunday and holiday games will do so at 5 p.m.

The Korean Series will switch from the 2-3-2 to 2-2-3 format, meaning the club with the home field advantage will host Games 1 and 2, and, if necessary, 5 to 7.

Yonhap