Oh may leave Rockies to pitch in Korea again

Loss of right-hander could create issues for Colorado's bullpen

October 17th, 2018

DENVER -- Righty relief pitcher , who finished 2018 with 25 solid games with the Rockies, may desire a return to his native South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday.

The Rockies' $2.5 million option on Oh's contract vested last season at 70 appearances (he appeared in a combined 73 games with the Blue Jays and the Rockies). Should the Rockies reach an agreement to let Oh leave, they would gain one more question with a bullpen that faces several. General manager Jeff Bridich could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the report regarding Oh.

Oh, 36, pitched in the Majors for the last three seasons with the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Rockies, who acquired him from the Jays on July 26. He also spent the previous two years in Japan. While the Rockies hold a 2019 club option worth $2.5 million, Oh told Yonhap that a return home and to the Korean Baseball Organization is desirable.

"I am a bit exhausted after spending five seasons in Japan and the United States," Oh said. "I feel like I want to return to the KBO while I still have the energy to help the team and pitch in front of home fans. I can't make this decision alone. I'll have to speak with my agency about next season.

"It's not easy living in a foreign country. You have to face the opposing hitters on the mound, and there are a lot of other things you have to battle off the field. Everything away from the stadium is an extension of competition."

Before going to Japan and the U.S., Oh spent his entire nine-season KBO career with the Samsung Lions, and owns the league career saves record at 277. The Lions own his Korean rights. Should he return, he would have to serve a half-season KBO suspension, handed down in 2016, after being fined by a court on illegal overseas gambling charges.

Should the Rockies grant Oh his desire to go home, they face the prospect of losing two of their four most-trusted late-game right-handed relievers.

Oh went 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 24 strikeouts against seven walks in 21 1/3 innings pitched. Free-agent-to-be struck out 112 batters in 77 2/3 innings over 75 appearances. Oh, Ottavino, righty setup man and righty closer were relied on repeatedly as the Rockies made a late charge to qualify for the posteason, where they defeated the Cubs in the National League Wild Card Game and were swept by the Brewers in the NL Division Series.

The Rockies will have to make financial decisions, and hope for better performance from some pitchers in whom they invested heavily, while forming the 2019 bullpen.

The Rockies signed relievers to three multi-year contracts last offseason, with mixed results. Davis is under a three-year, $52 million deal. Two relievers under three-year, $27 million contracts -- righty and lefty Jake McGee -- struggled to the point that they weren't on the NLDS roster. Additionally, lefty Mike Dunn, in the second year of a three-year, $19 million contract, struggled with left shoulder pain all year and underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.

There are some building blocks.

• Davis, 33, despite a few spectacularly poor outings, set a club record with 43 saves and was scored upon once in his final 18 regular-season appearances.

• Oberg, headed into his age-29 season, was a revelation. He dealt with a slow start, a demotion to Triple-A Albuquerque and a back injury, but had a strong second half. He finished 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 57 strikeouts (against 12 walks) in 58 2/3 total innings.

• Lefty Chris Rusin, who turns 32 on Monday, struggled through oblique and foot injuries and had a subpar overall season (2-3, 6.09), but by year's end had worked his way back into late-game opportunities.

If the Rockies lose Oh and Ottavino, they would either need to obtain a veteran or hope for a quantum leap from a homegrown reliever to fill the void.

Righty , 24 (1.84 ERA in 14 games) and lefty (2-3, 4.63), who will be 27, showed promise as converted starters. Righty DJ Johnson, 28, pitched well enough in seven September appearances to earn an NLDS roster spot. But righty , who will be 24, battled oblique and elbow issues and never appeared in the Majors after spending parts of 2016 and 2017 with the Rockies.