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S. Korean All-Star closer Go Woo-suk signs with San Diego Padres

By Yonhap

Published : Jan. 4, 2024 - 09:27

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This image, on Thursday, shows the club's new South Korean pitcher Go Woo-suk, who has signed a two-year deal with the team. (San Diego Padres) This image, on Thursday, shows the club's new South Korean pitcher Go Woo-suk, who has signed a two-year deal with the team. (San Diego Padres)

South Korean All-Star closer Go Woo-suk is now a member of the San Diego Padres.

The Padres announced Wednesday that Go has agreed to a two-year contract with a mutual option for a third year in 2026.

The Padres did not disclose financial details. Earlier in the day, New York Post columnist Joel Sherman tweeted that Go had signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million. A major league source confirmed to Yonhap News Agency that the guaranteed amount of Go's contract is indeed $4.5 million over two seasons.

According to Dennis Lin of The Athletic, Go will make $1.75 million this year and $2.25 million next year. The mutual option is worth $3 million with a $500,000 buyout.

Go, 25, pitched the previous seven years for the LG Twins in the Korea Baseball Organization.

The right-hander had been posted for Major League Baseball clubs on Dec. 5 and had until 5 p.m. Wednesday, to sign a contract. If Go had missed the deadline, he would have had to return to the Twins and become ineligible for posting until November this year.

Reports of Go nearing a deal with the Padres surfaced Tuesday night in the United States. Go traveled to the country early Wednesday afternoon to finalize the move.

Go has been one of the KBO's premier closers since taking on that role in 2019, two years after his debut.

From 2019-2023, Go led all KBO closers with 139 saves and a 2.39 ERA, and ranked second with 334 strikeouts.

Go is the second South Korean player for the Padres, as he joins Gold Glove-winning infielder and ex-KBO All-Star Kim Ha-seong.

They are the first pitcher-batter pair of South Korean teammates in the majors.

Kim has been the subject of trade rumors this winter as the Padres look to shed payroll. Barring a trade, he and Go will open their 2024 season at Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, where the Padres will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the "MLB World Tour Seoul Series" on March 20-21.

Go also becomes the second KBO star to move to MLB via posting this offseason. In December, former Kiwoom Heroes outfielder Lee Jung-hoo signed a six-year, $113 million contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Go, who led the KBO with 42 saves in 2022, and Lee, the 2022 KBO regular season most valuable player, are brothers-in-law. Born 14 days apart in August 1998, the two have been close friends since their junior years, even though they never attended the same school. Go married Lee's younger sister in January last year, and the couple had their first child in November, only days after Go locked down the Twins' first Korean Series title in 29 years.

Per rules on posting between the KBO and MLB, a KBO team losing a player to an MLB club receives a "release fee," based on the amount of the guaranteed portion of the player's contract.

The Twins agreed to post Go on the condition that they would let him leave only if the release fee stemming from Go's contract would cross an undisclosed threshold.

If the guaranteed value of the deal is US$25 million or less, the release fee is 20 percent of the contract. If the contract is worth between $25,000,001 and $50 million, the fee is 20 percent of the first $25 million, plus 17.5 percent of any amount exceeding that $25 million.

If a player signs for more than $50 million, his former KBO team will receive 20 percent of the first $25 million ($5 million) and 17.5 percent of the next $25 million ($4,375,000), plus 15 percent of the amount exceeding $50 million.

If Go's deal turns out to be worth $4.5 million in total, then the Twins will receive 20 percent of that as a release fee, $900,000.

Twins general manager Cha Myeong-seok acknowledged Wednesday that the front office wasn't too pleased with the Padres' offer, but the team owner, LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, gave Go the go-ahead sign, wanting to grant the player his wish to pitch in MLB.

Go is the first South Korean pitcher to move to MLB via posting since Kim Kwang-hyun joined the St. Louis Cardinals in December 2019 and the first South Korean relief pitcher to sign with a big league club since closer Oh Seung-hwan reached a deal with the Cardinals in January 2016.

Under a different posting system between the KBO and MLB, when big league clubs had to pay up for an exclusive negotiating right to a Korean player, three relief pitchers from the KBO had failed to land a deal.

In 1998, LG Twins reliever Lee Sang-hoon commanded $600,000 in the posting fee, but the Twins rejected the offer.

Doosan Bears reliever Jin Pil-jung was first posted before the 2002 season but did not attract any bid. In his second try, a team bid $25,000 for Jin in December 2002, and the Bears turned it down.

That same winter, Lim Chang-yong of the Samsung Lions drew a $650,000 bid, but his KBO team rejected it, too.

The first reliever to sign with a major league team out of the KBO was Choi Hyang-nam in early 2009, when the St. Louis Cardinals bid $101 for him. Choi's KBO team, the Lotte Giants, accepted the deal, but Choi only signed a minor league deal and never reached the majors. (Yonhap)