SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) — The reigning MVP in South Korean baseball is headed to Japan.
The KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Wednesday their slugging outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. has signed with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The Wiz said Rojas’ camp told them about the deal and that the 30-year-old wanted to play on a bigger stage.
The Wiz said they made Rojas an offer that would have made him the highest-paid foreign batter in KBO history, but now they’ll now turn to their Plan B.
Darin Ruf’s US$1.9 million contract with the Samsung Lions for the 2019 season remains the most lucrative deal for a foreign hitter. Retired right-hander Dustin Nippert holds the record for the biggest deal for a foreign player in the KBO, with his $2.1 million contract from 2017.
Earlier in the day, MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi tweeted that Rojas Jr. would sign a two-year deal with Hanshin.
Rojas was the runaway MVP winner in the KBO this past season. He led the league with 47 home runs and 135 RBIs, and finished third with a .349 batting average to come up one category shy of winning the Triple Crown
He also topped all players with 116 runs scored, 374 total bases, .680 slugging percentage and 1.097 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). The Wiz reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history behind Rojas’ power surge.
Rojas Jr. has never played in the majors. He had denied an earlier report out of Japan that he’d signed with another NPB team, Yomiuri Giants, and he also reportedly drew interest from the Miami Marlins in the majors.