2020 was the year of Mel Rojas Jr. (33). Of course, he has been recognized as a good hitter at the top of the league since he entered the KBO League in 2017, but 2020 was an excellent performance that took him to the next level. He was undisputed MVP of the league. He won four times including a home run.
Rojas Jr. rose to the throne in 2020 by posting a batting average of 0.349, 47 homers, 135 RBIs and 1.097 on-base plus slugging (OPS) in 142 games. He was also the first switch hitter and homerun king in the history of the KBO League. It was natural that Rojas Jr. competed in the offseason. Major League teams, Japanese teams, and even his original team, KT, competed for the maximum amount of money. The winner was Hanshin of the Japanese pro baseball.
Kt put its all into staying with Rojas Jr., betting a huge amount of money on a multi-year contract. However, Hanshin’s offer was higher. Although Japanese pro baseball’s annual salary is kept private, media reports say that the two-year, 5-million-dollar contract was signed. It was higher than the wager made by KT. Rojas Jr. also had a dream to return to the Major League based on Japan’s offer of a large amount of money. However, things have not gone his way.
Rojas Jr. was sluggish in Japan for two years and couldn’t make a living. Even though he was the highest-paid fielder at Hanshin Club at the time, it was difficult to become a regular starting pitcher in the first division. He used to play in the second division. His team gave him several opportunities, but his batting average hardly increased. In Korea, he was a batter with both precision and long-range hitting power, but in Japan, the ball didn’t even hit the bat well. After struggling for two years, his contract term ended. 안전놀이터
There was not a good place to call Rojas Jr. He could have thought of kt with holding rights, but Anthony Alford, who joined as a foreign player in 2022, had played well for kt. At the time, when kt weighed Alford and Rojas Jr., it eventually picked Alford. Rojas Jr.’s two-year slump also took place, and Alford was younger. If Rojas Jr. was in a falling trend, Alford believed there was more place to spread.
However, this year, Rojas Jr. and KT are reconnecting. They need to find new foreign hitters. Alford had a batting average of 0.289, 15 homers, 70 RBIs, 17 steals, and an OPS of 0.812 in 133 games this year. The absolute value was not very poor, but it fell short of KT’s expectations. Moreover, defense issues have hardly been resolved. It was an Achilles heel for KT, which has weak corner outfield defense. In the end, it was excluded from the list of players withheld. It cannot be renewed.
KT is continuing negotiations with existing pitchers William Cuevas and Wes Benjamin to renew contract. As the general assessment is that they are not suitable players in the U.S. or Japan, expectations are high that they will eventually reach a settlement. On the contrary, foreign hitters need to be found. Rojas Jr., who still holds the right of suspension, can be an alternative. A high-ranking official at KT said, “We are observing Rojas Jr. playing.”
Rojas Jr., who spent a year playing in Mexican league and other leagues without returning to Major League this year, is playing in the Dominican Winter League. Players who play in the winter league can be broadly divided into Major League players who want to take care of their physical condition or those who want to find a job, and Rojas is the latter. Rojas Jr. has shown good performance, however. He is one of the best hitters in the winter league this year. One has to think about his performance in the winter league, but his physical condition itself is not bad. Observations on kt are also expected to continue. If the result is positive, the kt may be troubled.