Chong Tae-hyon, the free agent pitcher who was aiming to become the first Korean to advance directly to Major League Baseball from the Korean league, did not sign with the Baltimore Orioles, but instead joined the Busan-based Lotte Giants.
Lotte officially announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to a four-year deal with Chong worth W3.6 billion, which includes a W1 billion signing fee, an annual salary of W500 million and a W600 million incentive (US$1=W1,154).
“I became disheartened when the negotiations with the Orioles became drawn out, but Lotte’s active approach touched my heart. I am thrilled at the opportunity to be able to play in Busan, a baseball city known for its passionate fans. I hope I can make a huge contribution to the team and help it win the title in 2012,” Chong said in a press release.
In explaining his decision to surrender his MLB ambitions, he said, “The result of the medical test with the Orioles showed that there were some problems with my liver, and we couldn’t narrow our differences over how to treat the issue.”
The player initially agreed to a two-year deal with the Orioles on Nov. 22 worth US$3.2 million, including a $200,000 signing fee and an annual salary of $1.5 million. But the signing of the contract kept getting postponed due to the medical test result, and Chong returned to Korea on Dec. 7 for further tests.
He declined to comment further on the matter and sought fans’ understanding “for not being able to explain in detail under the regulations of the MLB.” He added that factors outside of baseball also led him to return home.
“After I went to the U.S., I realized that the obstacles I would face, such as taking care of my child’s education and finding a suitable living environment, were much bigger than I had expected.”