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Rockies reliever eyeing return to Korea?

Rich Allen Avatar
October 17, 2018

Maybe you can go home again.

Colorado Rockies reliever Seunghwan Oh told South Korean media he’s considering a return to his home country’s professional baseball league in 2019.

Oh, who was acquired at the 2018 trade deadline, was a much-needed addition to a then-struggling relief corps. He is under contract with the Rockies for the 2019 season after his vesting option of 70 appearances in 2018 was fulfilled. The $2.5 million he is set to earn would give the Rockies a cheap and reliable late-inning option to help bridge the way to Wade Davis. But, the 36-year-old might opt to forfeit that money to return to the Korean Baseball Organization, where he is the all-time saves leader.

“I feel like I want to return to the KBO while I still have the energy to help the team and pitch in front of home fans,” Oh told the Yonhap News Agency on Oct. 17.

Oh pitched nine seasons in the KBO, recording 277 saves with a 1.69 ERA in 444 games for the Samsung Lions. He then played two years in Nippon Professional Baseball before coming to the United States in 2016. After playing two seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason and was traded to the Rockies on July 26.

“The Final Boss” helped stabilize an expensive Rockies bullpen that struggled out of the gate. In 25 games for Colorado, he pitched high-leverage situations to a 2.53 ERA. Before his acquisition, the Rockies’ bullpen pitched to a National League-worst 5.26 ERA, better than only the Kansas City Royals. With Oh, they were third best in the NL and fifth in MLB at 3.55.

Oh means losing one late-inning arm, which can be devastating enough for a team. But, the Rockies are running out of time before Adam Ottavino, the team’s most consistent relief arm all season, becomes a free agent.

Losing one of these players will hurt the Rockies, but losing both could be catastrophic.

Additionally, the Rockies acquired Oh with the assumption they would likely have him through the 2019 season. Because of this, they agreed to deal two of their top prospects: slugging first baseman Chad Spanberger and former first-round pick Forrest Wall. Spanberger was crushing Atlantic League pitching for the Asheville Tourists at the time of the trade, and Wall is a legitimate five-tool asset that has dealt with health issues but still has MLB upside.

Twenty-three-year-old pitcher Bryan Baker was included on Aug. 14 as the player to be named later.

That’s a significant package of players for 21.1 relief innings.

There won’t be a silver lining in salary retainment, either, if Oh forfeits his contract. His modest salary is remarkably team friendly especially for his production, and the Rockies likely won’t find a replacement for that cost efficiency on the free agent market.

The Colorado Rockies’ offseason hasn’t even started yet, but the alarm bells are starting to ring already. Hang on tight.



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