Stability over risk. The KBO foreign player market, which is becoming increasingly difficult to find top-notch players, is set to see a record number of re-signings.

On July 17, SSG announced the re-signing of foreign pitcher Roenis Elias ($1 million) and outfielder Guillermo Heredia ($1.5 million). On the same day, Lotte announced the re-signing of pitcher Charlie Barnes ($1.35 million).

This brings the total number of foreign players to 10, including LG pitcher Casey Kelly ($1.5 million), infielder Austin Dean ($1.3 million), KT pitcher William Cuevas ($1.5 million), pitcher Wes Benjamin ($1.4 million), Lotte pitcher Aaron Wilkerson ($950,000), Hanwha pitcher Felix Peña ($1.05 million), and Kiwoom outfielder Ronnie Dawson ($600,000).

There are seven new foreign players:

LG pitcher Dietrick Enns ($1 million), SSG pitcher Robert Dugger ($900,000), NC pitcher Daniel Castano ($850,000), Lotte outfielder Victor Reyes ($950,000), Samsung infielder David McKinnon ($1 million), Hanwha outfielder Jonathan Peraza ($1 million), and Kiwoom pitcher Enmanuel de Jesus ($800,000). KT outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. ($900,000) is a returnee from Japan and Mexico.

The remaining foreign player spots are likely to be filled by familiar faces. Doosan pitchers Raul Alcantara and Brandon Waddell, 안전놀이터 KIA outfielder Socrates Brito, Samsung pitcher David Buchanan, and Kiwoom pitcher Ariel Hurtado are expected to re-sign unless something drastic happens. KIA pitcher Thomas Pannoni, Doosan outfielder Jose Rojas, and Hanwha pitcher Ricardo Sanchez are also on the “insurance” list, leaving the door open for re-signings.

At least 15 of the 30 foreign players are likely to be re-signed. If even one of the insurance players stays, it will be the most foreign re-signings ever, surpassing the 15 in 2016 and 2021.

The market for foreign players is not good.

A foreign scout said, “It’s harder than ever to sign players. You can’t get a top player for $1 million. Japanese teams are not letting go of decent players.” The U.S. is also facing a shortage of players, as many players quit baseball midway through their careers or stagnated due to the canceled and scaled-back U.S. minor leagues in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Releasing players is not easy.

The new $1 million salary cap doesn’t allow for free agents. The best players either go to Japan or stay in the US. Japan offers more money, and the U.S. has improved minor league treatment and conditions, so there’s not much to lure them to Korea. The KBO has capped the salary of new foreign players at $1 million for the sixth year since 2019, while the minimum salary in the major leagues has risen from $550,000 to $720,000.

While there are “superstars” like Eric Pedroia (Chicago White Sox) who come to Korea to make a career switch to the major leagues, it’s unlikely. With the lack of players from the U.S., players like Enns and McKinnon, who failed to re-sign in Japan, have been targeted by KBO teams.

In the past, it was common for teams to look for new foreign players rather than re-signing them unless they were a sure thing, but with the market becoming increasingly uncertain, more teams are opting for stability over risk. So far, four clubs – LG, KT, SSG, and Lotte – have filled their rosters with two re-signings. As expected, it would be a league first if all 10 teams had at least one re-signed player.