Report: Cubs Set to Sign Korean Relief Pitcher Chang-Yong Lim (UPDATES: $5 Million Split Contract)

The Chicago Cubs don’t even have a box outside of which to operate.

According to a report out of Korea, the Chicago Cubs are set to sign right-handed reliever Chang-Yong Lim to a deal. The Korean 36-year-old has been pitching in Korea and Japan since he broke into professional baseball, and is a hard-throwing* side-armer. At the peak of his game, he was one of the most dominant relievers in Japan – indeed, the report notes that he was the 6th best paid player in Japan last year.

The report does not indicate what the terms of the deal are expected to be, but it is likely a minimal investment by the Cubs because …

… Lim had his second Tommy John surgery in July. For that reason, it isn’t particularly conceivable that he’ll be able to pitch until the second half of the season at the earliest. He could be getting a minor league deal (with a major league split – i.e., he gets paid a rate better than the major league minimum if and when he actually pitches in the bigs), perhaps with a club option for 2014 if he shows he’s healthy.

So, odds are this is a roster-neutral, cost-neutral, pure upside signing. If it plays out that way, cool. The Cubs have obviously been doing some serious scouting in Japan, and like the idea of importing some relievers (having already signed Kyuji Fujikawa). If there’s no risk here, why not take a crack on Lim? The Cubs shouldn’t limit their reclamation projects to Stateside pitchers only.

UPDATE: John over at Cubs Den found a different report, which, if my Google Translate is working properly, suggests that Lim’s agreement will indeed be a split major league/minor league deal. It looks like the Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, and Rangers were also interest in Lim, who isn’t expected to be fully ready to go until 2014 (again, I think I’m reading it that way).

*UPDATE 2 (8:14pm CT): NPB Tracker has his average fastball velocity sliding from the mid-90s in his younger days to just under 90mph this past season. The elbow issues could have something to do with that, but so could his age.

UPDATE 3 (8:30pm CT): I should add that, assuming this is a one-year with option, or a two-year deal, it is probably going to have some scary number attached to it – in the multi-millions. But, if it’s a split contract, you’ll have to keep in mind before you freak: a split deal is essentially a minor league contract. It only costs the major league portion if the guy actually makes it to the bigs. So, while he might get a nice salary on the major league portion of his deal, there’s no risk to the Cubs if he can’t actually contribute.

UPDATE 4 (8:41pm CT): Right on cue, I found a report purporting to be an interview with Lim at the airport as he departed Korea, apparently to come sign his contract with the Cubs. The report (I can’t totally vouch for it, as my knowledge of Korean media is limited) says it’s a two-year, $5 million deal – but it’s a split deal, meaning it’s a minor league contract, and he only gets into the real money when he makes the big league roster. So, as I said: no real risk to the Cubs, but obviously they must believe there’s a fair chance he’ll make it back from this second surgery and be a contributor if his big league salary is going to be non-negligible. Some bits from that report:

Lim said he has been rehabbing his elbow for the past month in South Korea since his release from the Swallows. Lim is expected to remain out of action until July next year.

“The Cubs expect to see me back on the field in 2014, rather than next year,” Lim said. “Once the deal is signed, I will move to Arizona, where the Cubs operate a rehab center. My goal is to continue to rehab and get back on the mound by mid to late season next year.” …

Park Yoo-hyun, Lim’s agent, said the Cubs have been the most “active” suitor of Lim since September and the team laid out detailed plans to help Lim’s rehab. He also said other teams had offered more money than the Cubs, but the Chicago team said it would put a Korean interpreter and Lim’s personal trainer on the payroll.

UPDATE 5 (9:14pm CT): Obviously this all looks legit, and I wouldn’t go quite this far into the updates if I thought this was a straight-up hoax. But it’s worth throwing up the tiny cautionary roadblock: there is absolutely nothing about this Stateside. I have no reason to doubt the Korean reports, but I also have no personal knowledge that tells me that they’re spot on. We’ll get more clarity soon, but this is obviously not a signed contract yet.

(h/t to our own BN’er Korean Goat, who was relaying reports on this earlier today.)

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

169 responses to “Report: Cubs Set to Sign Korean Relief Pitcher Chang-Yong Lim (UPDATES: $5 Million Split Contract)”

  1. Dan

    Very comical u should see my posts from last night uf u wanna laugh

  2. Rich

    First as Brett has been saying we have nothing concrete on this yet. It is a media report out of Korea so we do not know the particulars. I really doubt this is a major league contract, Just a flyer on a guy that could help us in 2014. If he makes the 40 man NEXT year (July at the earliest but I Imagine that he will spend 2013 in the minors getting arm strength back.)

    Second moves like this are the way to catch lightning in a bottle. As has been pointed out pitchers from the Far East have a window where they are dominant till the scouts get enough information and eyes on them to find flaws. That being said all in all we are no better or worse for taking a flyer on the guy so quit finding a reason just to hate.

    1. Westbound Willie

      Lightening in a bottle in regard to q guy approaching 40? Lol!

      1. cjdubbya

        Absolutely. Check out any number of highly-regarded Japanese relievers that come over and have success for a couple years. This is low-risk, bridge-the-gap-for-a-couple-years.

  3. bbmoney

    I am again shocked by the anger shown about a signing that carries virtually no risk.

    The only risk I can possibly see is if they can’t figure out the 40 man roster, this guys has to get added earlier than they can get him on the 60 day DL and we have to DFA someone and lose them. Otherwise what’s the downside? The guy never pitches in the MLB and we’re out very very minimal dollars?

    Must just be people using this as an opportunity to again spell out their frustrations with the direction of the team. Because this signing is a footnote….and kind of an interesting one.

    1. Kyle

      He can’t be added to the 60-man DL until 45 days before Opening Day.

      He has to be added to the 40-man within 20 days of signing the contract, which he said he was flying to the US to do, so they will have to add him at some point.

      1. willis

        Another wasted spot. Unreal.

  4. RoughRiider

    Matthew 8:26

  5. OlderStyle

    Interesting move. It looks like they’re really trying to bolster the bullpen in creative ways. Well, they may as well collect as many lottery tickets as they can.
    But I’m still waiting on the Marmol, Soriano and Garza trades. Maybe DeJesus, too. This offseason has been a real snoozer, so far.

  6. hookersorcake

    Its obvious the Cubs are building a giant Frankenstein monster pitcher. Buying several different pitchers with different arm slots and previous surgeries. Plus you can take three guys and turn them into 1 guy and the 40 man log jam is avoided. Think of it. One guy with four or five good arms who could pitch left, right, side arm, submarine.
    Seriously I like how everyone is upset about the 40 man jenga. Like Theo has some guy looking up crap on the internet and they haven’t a clue how any of this works.

  7. Justin

    Ok is it just me, or is this signing just weird? I don’t know much about this guy, but why sign him when he is 36 and isn’t expected back until 2014? Rebuiding is not signing all these old relief pitchers. So what is the strategy here?

    1. kranzman54

      I think the article is pretty clear, even at this age, it is a low risk/could get a solid piece in the bull-pen come 2014 move. If he is no good, they just keep him in the minors, no biggie. If things go well, they have the option to call him up and shift gears to the major league portion of the contract. It is all in the Cubs hands. Great Deal, not exciting, but a nice move.

  8. willis

    God forbid this team spend roster spots on healthy guys that can contribute. This is really getting old.

  9. baseballet

    TWO Tommy John surgeries? Since TJS involves removing a ligament from one’s body and installing it in one’s elbow, I wonder where the currently installed ligament was taken from? At some point, he’s going to run out of ligaments to harvest.

    Setting the scene for 2013: It’s Cubs vs. Cards, and the Cubs are clinging to a one run lead. It’s the middle of the fifth and Travis Wood is running out of steam. Wood keeps shaking off his catcher, “Beef” Wellington Castillo; two fingers flash, but Wood wants to throw the heat. “Eighty nine miles per hour, let him choke on it,” Wood thinks. Beef is worried. Holliday fouled the last fastball onto Waveland Ave. Beef looks imploringly into the dugout. Dale hops the stairs and takes a slow walk towards the mound. He holds up his right arm, pointing two fingers at his right elbow ligament to signal who he wants as his stopper. But the crowd doesn’t need to wait for his signal. They know who they want. The chant builds quickly, if slightly muffled from mouths full of bison dogs (The Official Lean Meat of the Chicago Cubs)—”Lim Chang-Yong…Lim Chang-Yong.”

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