An agent for a Korean baseball star looking to make the leap into Major League Baseball intimated a racial bias among big-league clubs.
Alan Nero, attending the GM meetings in Phoenix,remarked that if his client were Cuban instead of Korean he would be fighting off nine-figure offers during MLB’s posting season that enables teams to put a price on the services of foreign players. Aware that young Cuban stars have received huge contracts, including Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes, Nero said of Jeong-ho Kang, “If he was Cuban, he’d get $100 million.”
Nero represents the 27-year-old Korean shortstop, who slammed 39 regular-season home runs, boasted 115 RBI, and sported a .354 batting average and .733 slugging percentage for Nexen of the KBO last year.
The Yasiel Puig effect might explain the Cuban-Korean disparity. Another factor influencing offers centers around history: more than one-hundred Cubans have competed in MLB. Major-league rosters have included a handful of Koreans–just two position players–over the last two decades.
Nero is probably also aware that the supposed price tag for Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas is $100 million. He pointed out his client’s versatility. The Korean star has played second base, third base, center field, and shortstop.