Big league interest in KBO’s leading closer, Go Woo-Seok (25-LG Twins), is gradually materializing.
Although it seemed unlikely that the LG team would be able to find out about Ko Woo-seok’s MLB challenge until after the Major League Baseball (MLB) office requested a background check on him, a team has actually shown interest.
The Belleville News-Democrat, a daily newspaper based in the U.S. states of Illinois and Missouri, reported on Aug. 28 (KST) that “the St. Louis Cardinals are considering signing Ko Woo-seok and Japanese left-hander Yuki Matsui in the free-agent market.” “St. Louis, which is now looking to bolster its bullpen, will investigate whether they can be useful in the bullpen,” the newspaper said.
The Cardinals, a storied club in the National League Central, went 71-91 with a .435 winning percentage this season, falling to last place in the division for the first time since 1990.
The Cardinals are looking to bolster their offense, adding three pitchers to their starting rotation with the acquisitions of Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray in the Stovrig.
The bullpen is next on the list.
The Reds’ bullpen has a 4.47 ERA this season, which ranks 13th out of 15 teams in the National League.
St. Louis closer Ryan Helmsley, who has 14 saves, has been at odds with the club over the spacing of his appearances.
“He had a falling out with the organization last year when he asked for a salary adjustment and refused to pitch (back-to-back starts), so there was talk of a trade,” said one person familiar with the Reds’ situation.
“It’s not surprising that the Reds would look to Asia to bolster their bullpen.”
The Cardinals are optimistic about bringing in Asian pitchers because of the impressive performances of Oh Seung-hwan (Samsung Lions) and Kim Kwang-hyun (SSG Landers) in the past.
Seung-hwan Oh, in particular, went 6-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 19 saves in 2016, his first year in the MLB, and followed that up with 20 saves in 2017.
Go Woo-seok, whose main weapon is a hard-hitting fastball in the mid-150 kilometers per hour, is developing into the next “fireman” for South Korea, following in the footsteps of Oh Seung-hwan.
Although he struggled with injuries this season, going 3-8 with 15 saves and a 3.68 ERA, he was one of the league’s best closers in 2021 and 2022, collecting 72 saves in both seasons.
Yuki Matsui (Rakuten Golden Eagles), who was mentioned alongside Ko, is a short, 5-foot-11 closer with a hard fastball and a variety of pitches.
He topped the Nippon Professional Baseball Pacific League saves list with 32 saves in 2022 and 2022, and pitched a scoreless inning against South Korea in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March this year. 안전놀이터