While the bulk of the internationally-inclined focus is centered on Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka, whether he’ll be posted, and whether the Chicago Cubs will be seriously involved in the bidding (Jed Hoyer says they will be), there are other international free agents available for the plucking. Not only are there a handful of interesting Cuban defectors out there, but there’s also an interesting righty arm from Korea: 27-year-old Suk-Min Yoon, who is a true free agent.
The Cubs are reportedly in on him, and he could be signing soon.
We’ve discussed Yoon before, including the Cubs’ reported interest:
Yoon, who started his KBO career at 19, doesn’t have stats that scream stud conversation to the States, but they’re good. For his career, Yoon’s got a 3.19 ERA in the KBO, which is well below league average (the KBO tends to be a little more offensively-inclinded than the NBP (Japan) – for reference, a 3.19 ERA is likely to put you in the top ten in the league every year).
That said, Yoon is coming off the worst year of his career, posting a 4.00 ERA, with 28 BBs and 76 Ks in just 87.2 innings. He spent a fair bit of time in the bullpen this year, after long being a starter, reportedly because he volunteered to move to the pen to help his struggling team out.
It’s unlikely that Yoon will command a significant contract, though his age and past success at least make him an intriguing target. For comparison’s sake, Yoon is a couple years older than Hyun-Jin Ryu, who came over from the KBO to the Dodgers this year and pitched extremely well. Ryu had a better career ERA (2.80), threw far more innings, struck out more per inning, walked fewer per inning, and was generally regarded as a harder-throwing pitcher with better stuff.
At the time of that report, Arirang News in Korea suggested that the Cubs were the favorite to sign Yoon. Now, an Arirang report says Yoon could sign soon, and is drawing interest from six unnamed teams. The report names the Twins as the frontrunner, but says the two sides have not been able to come together on a deal. Scott Boras represents Yoon.
In its previous report, Arirang specifically named the Cubs and Minnesota Twins as in on Yoon. Although there are obviously other interested teams, it’s fair to wonder if the Cubs and Twins were still leading the pack, as of this weekend. If they were, you have to ask: do the Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes signings take the Twins out of the running for Yoon? Is the reason the Twins and Yoon were unable to come to a deal because the Twins were preferring to first see if they could land stateside targets like Nolasco and Huges? If so, are the Cubs now the clear favorite for Yoon?
It remains to be seen just how exciting (or, like, not) Yoon is as a possibility for the Cubs. His arm troubles this past year and his time in the bullpen make you wonder whether he’s viewed strictly as a swing-man/depth-type signing. Whatever contract he receives will go a long way to tell us how he’s viewed, which is unfortunately the kind of backwards logic train we have to use with some of these international targets.