|NC Dinos' Na Sung-bum celebrates with teammates in dugout after hitting a solo homer during a fifth inning against Lotte Giants at Chaongwon NC Park in South Gyeongsang Province, Sept. 9, 2020. Yonhap|
South Korean All-Star outfielder Na Sung-bum is returning to the domestic league after failing to reach an agreement with a major league team via posting.
Na, a 31-year-old slugger for the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), had been posted for Major League Baseball (MLB) teams last month, and the deadline of 5 p.m. Saturday Eastern Standard Time, or 7 a.m. Sunday in South Korea, came and went without a deal.
Na will be back with the Dinos in 2021. Under the agreement signed between the KBO and MLB, Na can't be posted again until November.
Na was one of two KBO stars to be posted this winter. The other one, former Kiwoom Heroes shortstop Kim Ha-seong, signed a four-year deal with the San Diego Padres on New Year's Eve.
Unlike Kim, who was linked to a handful of other clubs in the lead-up to his deal, Na failed to generate much buzz during his posting period.
Na had a strong 2020 season for the Dinos, with 34 home runs, 112 RBIs, 115 runs scored and a .324/.390/.596 line. He ranked second in the league in runs, third in home runs and seventh in RBIs. He also spent some time as the Dinos' designated hitter.
|The San Diego Padres introduces Kim Ha-seong on its Twitter page on Jan. 1. Screen capture from Twitter|
It was an impressive bounceback campaign for Na, who missed over 100 games in 2019 with a serious knee injury sustained in an awkward slide. Na would have been eligible for posting in 2019 if he'd stayed healthy and played the full season then.
KBO players must complete seven full seasons, or their equivalent, to be posted.
Na can be posted again after the 2021 season. And he will become an international free agent after his ninth full season in 2022, which would allow him to knock on the big league doors without going through posting.
The Dinos, who won their first-ever Korean Series title in 2020, will have their franchise cornerstone back in the mix in their repeat bid. Most of their other core pieces will return in 2021.
In a statement released by the Dinos on Sunday here, Na said he was glad to have taken a shot at reaching MLB, and he'll now shift his focus on trying to win a second straight Korean Series with the Dinos.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed, but I don't have huge regrets," Na said. "I'd like to thank the Dinos for giving me this opportunity. It has long been a dream of mine to play in the majors, and I was happy just to get this opportunity."
As for a future big league bid, Na said, "I think I'll have another chance down the road. But now, I will try my best to help the Dinos win another title in 2021." (Yonhap)