You can never have too much pitching. It’s an age old adage, and it’s about as true as it can be. Cincinnati has two starting pitchers that are heading for free agency. The Reds could try to re-sign Trevor Bauer and/or Anthony DeSclafani, but those players have the right to go wherever they please, too, so the organization should be looking at plenty of other options to fill out their rotation. Some of those options should be looked at internally as the team could look at Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone, both of whom filled in during 2020 at times and performed well. But Korean left-handed pitcher Hyeon-Jong Yang is hitting the free agent market this winter, too.
Currently the Reds rotation will line up with Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, and Wade Miley. After that there’s openings and competition – or at least it seems that there is at this moment in time. Perhaps a guy like Tejay Antone can be viewed as such a weapon out of the bullpen, a guy who could give you 1-inning stints every so often, but be a guy who can give you 2-3 innings 2-3 times a week changes how the team views his usage. Either way, you are going to almost assuredly need more than five starting pitchers in a season.
That’s why taking a look at a pitcher like Hyeon-Jong Yang makes plenty of sense. He’s been very good at times as a starter in the KBO – he won the ERA title in 2019 with a 2.29 mark across 29 starts. In 2020 he took a step backwards, though, as his ERA jumped to 4.66 as his home run and walk rates both went up. You can see his entire KBO history here.
In an era where seemingly everyone throws 95+, Hyeon-Jong Yang doesn’t fit that profile. The left-handed pitcher sits around the 90 MPH range with his fastball, and mixes in a slider, curveball, and a change up. Nothing really jumps out at you from his arsenal, but he’s solid across the board.
At 33-years-old, this isn’t his first foray into free agency. His team actually posted him after the 2014 season. Several teams put in offers, but his team declined the winning bid and decided to keep him under contract. After the 2017 season, when he posted a 3.68 ERA, he was a free agent and didn’t require any posting or bidding process in order to bring him on. He ultimately chose to re-sign with the Kia Tigers – the team he’s been with since 2007 when he made his debut in the KBO.
Perhaps Hyeon-Jong Yang could provide something along the lines of starting pitching depth, but work out of the bullpen as a left-handed reliever. At this point we don’t really know what role he will be looking for, or which role other teams may be interested in offering him. Having additional rotation depth, and perhaps a quality bullpen arm could be useful for the Reds. It’s possible this could be a solid fit.