The international market doesn’t create as much buzz in baseball circles as the traditional free agent market, but it’s a route that’s worth keeping in mind when it comes to the A’s.
Leading up to the Winter Meetings, they were linked to Korean outfielder Kim Hyun-soo, who is an unrestricted free agent and looking to jump to the major leagues for 2016. The Yonhap News Agency, based in South Korea, reported that the A’s were taking “a long look” at Kim, a left fielder who’s hit .318 in nine seasons playing in the Korea Baseball Organization. Kim hit 28 homers last season for the Doosan Bears and he’s shown impressive plate discipline, walking more times than he’s struck out over his career.
On Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Jayson Stark also reported that highly regarded Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda would be posted by the Hiroshima Carp, the first step required before a player who’s under contract in Japan can jump to the major leagues. It’s expected that the Carp will set Maeda’s posting fee at the maximum $20 million. Any team that agrees to pay the fee earns the right to negotiate with Maeda -- there’s no limit to the number of teams that can attempt to sign him -- and teams that fail to reach agreement on a contract get refunded their posting fee.
Adam Katz of the Wasserman Media Group, the US-based agency that’s representing both Kim and Maeda, offered no comment when asked whether the A’s were showing interest in either player. Though A’s officials typically don’t comment on their free agent pursuits, the team does have a heavy scouting presence in Asia, and it’s known that they’ve got sizable scouting reports on both players.
And while that doesn’t signal heavy interest in and of itself, the A’s have long viewed the international market as one that they compete in, on more equal footing, with bigger-spending teams. They surprised everyone back in 2012 when they signed Yoenis Cespedes out of Cuba on a four-year $36 million contract. Before the 2011 season, they won the bidding for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma but couldn’t hammer out a contract agreement.
Worth keeping in mind: Despite reports of the A’s heavy interest in Kim, adding him would create a logjam in the outfield, and it’s hard to imagine the A’s signing Kim unless they cut ties with at least one of their current outfielders.
As for Maeda, he’s expected to land a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $60 million, (which becomes $80 million if his posting fee is set at $20 million). That’s financial territory the A’s don’t often explore. Then again, you wouldn’t have guessed they would set their sights on free agent Scott Kazmir either, but they are indeed interested in the lefty, who will command a contract of at least three years in length and could pull down $15-20 million annually.
Improving the rotation is on the A’s to-do list.
A source confirmed to CSNCalifornia.com that the Cleveland Indians look like a long shot right now to acquire infielder Brett Lawrie. They’ve been reported as a suitor.