|In this Aug. 29 file photo, Yang Hyeon-jong of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Houston Astros during the top of the seventh inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. AP-Yonhap|
Now a free agent, one-time Texas Rangers pitcher Yang Hyeon-jong appears headed back to the only South Korean club he's played for.
The Kia Tigers of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) told reporters Wednesday evening that Yang had expressed his interest in a reunion and that they would try their best to sign him.
Teams don't typically reveal such details in negotiations with free agents, but Yang is not a typical free agent.
The 33-year-old former KBO MVP just finished his first and likely last season with the Rangers. He signed a minor league deal with them in February, following 14 mostly successful seasons with the Tigers as one of the KBO's most durable starters.
Yang, who won both the regular season and Korean Series MVP honors in 2017, was unable to crack the Rangers' rotation out of spring training and also failed to make an impact in spot starts early in the season.
Yang went 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA in 12 appearances, including four starts, in the majors. The Rangers designated Yang for assignment and removed him from their 40-man roster twice this season. Each time, Yang cleared waivers ― meaning, no club picked him up when he became available ― and he was sent outright to the minors.
In Triple-A, Yang also had a 0-3 record and a 5.60 ERA while making 10 appearances, including nine starts.
Immediately after Yang returned home on Oct. 5, his destination for next season became a subject of speculation. Though Yang has a ton of mileage on his arm, he has mostly stayed healthy throughout his career and should still be a high-end starter in the KBO.
Theoretically, any team could sign Yang now and have him pitch in the final days of the regular season, which will end on Oct. 30. Players who join clubs after Aug. 15 are not eligible for the postseason.
Yang has kept mum on his immediate future, saying he didn't want to be a distraction to any club while the season was still ongoing. But the Tigers did a bit of talking for him on Wednesday, while also pushing other interested clubs out of the bidding war.
The Tigers said Yang had visited with club executives last Thursday and told them he wanted to rejoin the Gwangju-based team. The Tigers, in return, told Yang that they appreciated his interest and that he was a player the team absolutely needed.
In the KBO, Yang has compiled a 147-95 record with a 3.83 ERA in 425 games. Yang tossed at least 170 innings every year from 2014 to 2020. In that span, no KBO pitcher gobbled up more innings than Yang's 1,290 2/3.
Without Yang in their rotation, the Tigers have slumped to a 50-70-8 (wins-losses-ties) record this year, ninth among 10 KBO clubs. They also have the second-to-worst team ERA at 4.99. (Yonhap)