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The Rays and Seung-hwan Oh, Korean free agent

Oh is (might be) the shutdown closer Tampa lacked in 2015.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Right-handed closer Seung-hwan Oh is available on the free agent like multiple other Korean players. The 33-year old has built up an impressive career in the KBO and Japan, carrying a career 1.81 ERA. Last season, he had a 2.76 ERA, 41 saves, and a K/9 of 8.57. Here are Oh's career stats:

Plus, his nickname is "The Final Boss." Tell me that's not freakin' cool.

Oh would fit on the Rays fairly well. Brad Boxberger had a lackluster season in 2015, which Jared attributed to less pitches in the zone, less deception with Boxberger's pitches, and hitters getting more contact on pitches in the zone.

If the Rays plan to win now, which the Nate Karns trade possibly suggests, then signing Oh could potentially give them both greater quality and stability in the back of the bullpen, which will be especially important if manager Kevin Cash continues his strategy of shifting innings from the Rays backline starters to the 'pen.

Seung-hwan Oh: What do we know?

It's hard to evaluate players you've never seen, who play in a league you do not know. Reports are that Oh features a fastball that can reach the high 90s (~97), but which sits in the low 90s (~92). We also know he works with a slider and a slow curve.

In the two years he spent in Japan, Oh struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings, and walked 1.9 batters per nine. That's comparable to what the latest successful transfer Masahiro Tanaka did (8.5 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9) as a starter, and while I definitely wouldn't make a case wholly on these numbers, it's nice to see that with the right player, they can transfer.

Community member homein22 gave us some tips, which inform our opinions on his stuff, but first let's watch some video to make it a relatable conversation.

Some things that stand out:

  • Kilometers/hour seems faster than miles/hour.
  • Both his strikeout and walk numbers and homein22's report indicate that Oh has a strong command of the strikezone, and that was evident in the video. Starting at the 2:18 mark, Oh hits the bottom outside corner with a fastball (fouled), moves the fastball up in the zone (also fouled, maybe caught more of the zone than he wanted), tries to expand the zone with a curve (taken), busts the fastball up and in on the hands (fouled), and then puts the batter away swinging with his slider off the bottom outside corner. It's a good sequence that shows a confident pitcher with command of his stuff.
  • At 4:30, Oh busts a hitter way up and in. I'm not sure that was quite where he wanted the pitch. Alternately, he may have been annoyed that the player made contact (for a foul). Either way, I really enjoyed his face afterward. I think that's mild annoyance, but it's very calm. I imagine this is why his other nickname is "The Stone Buddha."
  • At 4:55 (and again at 5:19) is a pitch that looks to me like a changeup, although I haven't seen that in the scouting reports I've read. Both were well placed on the outside edge.
  • At 6:21 and 6:40 are two more examples of Oh using the whole strikezone, and being comfortable working up (as Rays pitchers are often asked to do). That of course sets up the put-away slider.

The Price

Seung-hwan Oh will be 33 this upcoming season, and he's a free agent who apparently wants to play in Major League Baseball, so as to more fully test and showcase his talents. The move makes him an intriguing target because there's a wide range of possible outcomes. He could struggle to adjust to major league hitting, and never establish himself, or he could immediately step in and be a shutdown closer.

That uncertainty means that if he becomes that shutdown closer, he'll likely be a deal for whoever was brave enough to take on the risk. There is no posting fee, so what should the Rays offer?

When Koji Uehara came to the majors, his first deal was for two years, at $5 million per year. In the SB Nation off-season simulation, the Fake-Rays paid something similar and just signed Oh for 4/$22. That seems a bit long to me. Currently, Oh is paid $2.5 million a year in Japan.

Let's say that the offer has to be a bit higher than Uehara's (for inflation), and that the price that will win him is two years, for $6 million a year (the Grant Balfour contract).

Would you make the deal?