Left-hander Deok Ju Ham is staying in the Korea Baseball Organization, as Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News (X link) reports that Ham has re-signed with the LG Twins for a four-year deal worth close to $2.9MM, including incentives.
Ham emerged as a possibility for Major League teams last month, when MLB tendered a status check on the southpaw with the KBO League. This procedural move essentially indicates some level of interest in a Korean player from a big league team, though obviously no deal was worked out and Ham opted to stay with the Twins. It could be that he preferred the security of a four-year contract over what might’ve been just a one-year flier from a Major League team for less money, or perhaps even a non-guaranteed sum. Yoo notes that the status check “came as a surprise,” though it isn’t clear if this was surprising to Ham, the Twins, or maybe both parties.
Since Ham has 11 seasons of experience in the KBO League, he was a full free agent, and would’ve available to be signed by a big league team without an additional posting fee going to the Twins. Despite that long track record in South Korea, Ham is still a few weeks shy of his 29th birthday, and might be poised for bigger things now that he has seemingly moved past the injuries that limited him to 33 2/3 innings in 2021-22. Ham bounced back strongly to post a 1.62 ERA over 55 2/3 relief innings for the Twins in 2023, helping the Seoul-based franchise capture the third Korean Series title in franchise history.
Ham has a 3.50 ERA over 501 2/3 innings in his KBO career, comprised of eight seasons with the Doosan Bears and the last three seasons with the Twins. Working mostly as a reliever, Ham has dabbled in rotation work by starting 33 of his 397 career games, but has generally found more success out of the bullpen. Ham isn’t a high velocity pitcher and his 23.94% strikeout rate is solid but unspectacular, and he has been bothered by control problems at various points in his career.
The four-year contract closes the door on Ham’s chances of coming to the big leagues in the near future, barring a trade or some kind of further agreement between the lefty and the Twins. He’ll be 33 at the end of the deal and could still perhaps be a candidate to jump to MLB in 2028, though for now, Ham will focus his efforts on bringing the Twins another championship.