St. Louis Cardinals Reportedly Close to Deal with Korean RHP Seung-hwan Oh


The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly making one final impact free agent addition to shore up their club for 2016.

As former MLB scout Daniel Kim first reported on Sunday morning, Korean relief pitcher Seung-hwan Oh is currently en route to the United States, and assuming that the 33-year-old righthander passes a physical, he’s expected to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Oh is revered in Asia and has earned the nicknames “Stone Buddha” and “The Final Boss” during his career.

Oh spent the first nine seasons of his professional career pitching for the Samsung Lions of the KBO, then moved to Japan for the past two seasons and pitched for the Hanshin Tigers. His 277 saves over his nine seasons in Korea made him the KBO’s all-time leader in saves. At least statistically, 2015 was Oh’s least impressive season in the past five years, but he was still quite dominant. In 63 games, Oh had a 2.73 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 41 saves with 66 strikeouts and 16 walks in 69.1 innings.

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Over his 11-year professional career, Oh has pitched in 571 games (all in relief), posting a 1.81 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 772 strikeouts, and 149 walks in 646.1 innings. Oh has almost always been a dominant strikeout pitcher and averaged more than a strikeout per inning in nine of his 11 professional seasons. It’s possible, however, that the aging process will rob Oh of this ability, as had less than a strikeout per inning in 2015.

Oh was mired in controversy late in 2015, as he was reported to have been gambling in casinos in Macau and the Philippines. (For reference, gambling in foreign nations is illegal in South Korea). Though he originally planned to attend the winter meetings last month, he decided not to as the investigation was ongoing. Due to the perceived seriousness of the allegations in Asia, he likely didn’t have too many other options besides making the move to the majors for 2016.

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Oh will likely contend for a setup role in 2016, as the Cardinals’ incumbent closer Trevor Rosenthal won’t be going anywhere. Aside from those two, the Cardinals will also have former closer Jonathan Broxton, lefthanders Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons, and veteran righthander Seth Maness filling bullpen spots that are virtually guaranteed. Another spot or two could go to a veteran that the Cardinals bring in on a minor-league deal, a la Carlos Villanueva, or a pitcher among the intriguing but uncertain group of other relievers that saw action last season, including Jordan Walden, Sam Tuivailala, Mitch Harris, Miguel Socolovich, and Marco Gonzales.