The Minnesota Twins’ greatest need this offseason is once again starting pitching, and leaving no stone unturned would likely be beneficial in their search for suitable options. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has reported, per Twins’ Vice President for Player Personnel Mike Radcliff, that the Twins are “fully engaged” in the market for South Korean right-hander Suk-Min Yoon. Should they have interest in him?
Yoon made 30 appearances (13 starts) for the Samsung Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization this past season, posting a 4.00 ERA and solid peripherals (7.8 K/9; 2.9 BB/9) over 87.2 innings. He reportedly had his workload limited late in the season due to a shoulder issue, but was league MVP in 2011 when he went 17-5 with a 2.45 ERA over 172.1 innings.
Yoon, 27, has international experience in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, and is a unique case in that he is a true free agent and can sign with any major league team without going through the posting process that is often attached to international players (and forcing the team that signs him to pay the fee associated with the posting process). One potential negative is he is represented by Scott Boras, and is unlikely to come cheaply based on Boras’s reputation as a tough negotiator.
Berardino reports that Yoon throws a low 90’s fastball along with a slider and changeup, though it remains to be seen if his recent shoulder issues will rob him of any velocity. The Twins should be as familiar with Yoon as any other team, as Radcliff and others within the organization have apparently watched him pitch in Korea regularly. But with a bullpen that is fairly well situated, if they determine Yoon cannot move stateside and be an effective starter their interest would likely lessen significantly.
The Twins made a notable foray into the international market a few years ago by signing Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and that obviously did not work out well. That may make them hesistant to try it again with Yoon, but with less risk due to not having to pay a posting fee interested teams should step up or fall by the wayside based solely on his contract demands.
A couple of reference points for the deal Yoon will sign this winter are Hyun-jin Ryu, who signed a six-year, $36 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last offseason, and Wei-Yin Chen, who signed a three-year deal (with an option for a fourth year) worth $11.1 million with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 2012 season. It’s worth noting that Ryu and Chen are both left-handed pitchers, so perhaps market scarcity played a role in the contracts they signed, while a pitcher with Yoon’s profile would seem to be much easier to find and sign to a reasonable contract.
The Twins should not get into any sort of bidding war for Yoon’s services, and they should quickly move on to other options if his price gets too high. But I fear they will focus too much of their attention on bringing him aboard, while other perfectly good starting pitching options land elsewhere via free agency and trades.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.