Suk-Min Yoon: The Korean question mark

Chung Sung-Jun

Suk-Min Yoon is an international free agent starting pitcher that nobody is talking about. Maybe we should.

The internet had a quick but mild freakout this morning as Masahiro Tanaka tweeted something that Google Translate morphed into something vaguely-decision-y, but it turned out to be a false alarm as Tanaka actually said the opposite, citing indecisiveness over something that probably wasn't even about his future home. This happened because we are silly Americans who are desperately bored with baseball.

The Tanaka saga is just about over, and while the Mariners haven't really been connected for a long time, there was a glimmer of hope last night, as MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo passed along that the Mariners are still heavily involved in Tanaka hopes according to a secret agent (!), so if you're in need of an irrational wake-up in the midst of weeks of dead air, here ya go:

One agent said that the Yankees, Dodgers and Blue Jays were involved when asked what he had heard about Tanaka. Although reports from Toronto made the Jays seem like an unlikely destination, the agent said that the "Jays are in for sure". He also mentioned that there is talk around the game of the Mariners being heavily involved in the talks.

Good news - the Mariners are connected. Weird news - the Blue Jays also are. Who knows. I'm doing my due diligence to pass along worthwhile news, and I think this qualifies, despite it's late game murky nature.

Things are going to move like crazy after Tanaka signs. The Mariners still need another starting pitcher, and their interest in Scott Baker confirms to at least some degree that they're still looking for help. They have to be. If the next option isn't one of the "Domestic Three" as I've become fond of calling them, then it might be time to think outside the box. Jack Zduriencik repeatedly talked about how the Mariners may need to be "creative" this offseason, and after dumping a ton of money in Cano, maybe all the rumblings about the Mariners not having a ton of money left could be sort-of true. Vague enough? They have a ton of things to improve but may not want to drop another $20+ million a year into one guy when you examine the rest of the roster, especially the outfield and bullpen.

Enter Suk-Min Yoo, who barely anybody is talking about. He's a Korean starting pitcher, and he's just now starting to get a tiny bit of press despite ranking #35 on Jeff Passan's free agent rankings, one spot above Corey Hart. In a market where pitching costs are rising and the market for the Domestic Three is completely murky, the Mariners could look towards an unknown. This team desperately needs some upside to at least dream of contention if they aren't going to acquire more certain pieces to get them there, so reaching for a foreign pitcher, depending on the cost, might not be a bad idea. The Mariners badly need help in the bullpen too, and Yoon could end up there if he doesn't start.

It doesn't seem like the cost of goods is going to be particularly high, but that's based on pure conjecture that comes from me searching the web for information on Yoon and his suitors and finding a bunch of pictures of tumbleweeds. His agent is Scott Boras, so if Boras hasn't been able to at least manufacture some interest this late in the offseason, you know there can't be that many teams knocking at his door.

Here's what we know about Yoon:

  • nothing
  • ok, a little
  • There have been two blurbs written about him on MLBTR in the past three months
  • Korean, pitches in the KBO
  • Listed as Suk-min Yoon on Baseball-Reference
  • Listed as Yoon Suk-min on Wikipedia
  • Right-handed, 27 years old, 6 feet tall (according to the "internet")
  • Best season was in 2011 in which he won MVP (2.45 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 178 K in 172.3 innings, 2.75 FIP), also had excellent 2012 (3.12 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 137 K in 153 innings, 2.82 FIP)
  • Was moved to the bullpen in 2013 as he struggled with injury and performance
  • Won't require a posting fee

Steve Sypa wrote a scouting report on Yoon back in December 2012 at Amazin' Avenue. Here's what he had to say:

Yoon is on the small side, standing at an even six feet and weighing 180 pounds. He throws in the mid-90s, though, and complements his fastball with a hard, biting slider and a change-up that MLB scouts describe as above average. Though a starter, he has only thrown what we would consider an entire season's work (~175+ IP) once, in 2011. As best I can gather, the average starter in the KBO throws around 150 to 180 innings, making 25 to 30 starts, per season, often supplementing those starts with relief outings here and there.

Steve also speculated Yoon could get a contract similar to what Wei-Yin Chen received when he came stateside (3 years/$10.7 million) but that seems unlikely now given Yoon's struggles with injury/performance in 2013 as he shifted to the bullpen. He also didn't get a contract to his liking that offseason when he his value was higher, so maybe he'll continue to stick around in an attempt to rehabilitate his value.

Nobody has much of an idea of how good Suk-Min Yoon really is, but the Mariners need arms, and they might need to acquire them in a less expensive way than Masahiro Tanaka. They need to allow themselves some upside, provided it doesn't come at a premium. It doesn't seem like Yoon will, and while there's nothing that projects him to be anything particularly special at the big league level, he is a person who throws a baseball that could be good, and the Mariners need some of those. They need some could.

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