Foreigners who left Samsung due to injury… KBO appetite again, but rice cakes in the picture?

Samsung has signed right-hander Albert Suarez, 34, ahead of the 2022 season. After the success of David Buchanan, Samsung was confident in a foreign pitcher from Nippon Professional Baseball, and hoped to repeat that success with Suarez, who also has experience in Japan.

There was a consensus. His experience with Asian baseball made the transition easy. The fact that he was scouted by Japanese clubs was a testament to his appeal. In reality, Suarez was a hard-hitting pitcher who could easily hit 150 kilometers per hour. However, he had a history of injuries, and there was still the perception that there was a reason he had failed in Japan.

Upon opening the lid, Samsung was right. The four-seam fastball averaging 150 mph was everything we’d been told it would be. He wasn’t just a pitcher who relied on his fastball. He could run a game, throw a variety of pitches, and control his delivery. He also had a beast of a fastball that he kept cranking up when it mattered. In 2022, he pitched 173⅔ innings in 30 games with a 6-8 record and a 2.49 ERA. He was the second best pitcher in the game for a foreigner.

This year, he had a down year compared to last year. He went just 4-7 in 19 games. The lack of wins is nothing new, but his ERA has risen quite a bit to 3.92. There were concerns that his pitches were a bit duller than in previous years, leading to a higher walk rate, but he still had explosive stuff. However, injuries slowed him down. In August, he tore his left calf and was diagnosed with a four-week injury. It was time for Samsung to start working toward a breakthrough, and a month without a foreign player was brutal. Eventually, they released Suarez.

When Samsung was forced to release Suarez, his holdout rights were removed, meaning he was a free agent. He can sign with any team in the KBO. His performance in 2023 dropped off a bit, and his age of 35 next year is a liability. However, he still has the ability to throw hard fastballs. With a better team fit, he could be a proven second starter for a foreign team. Several KBO clubs directly or indirectly checked Suarez’s physical condition after the season ended. They considered signing him.

What these teams have in common is that they needed a foreign pitcher. While they didn’t see Suarez as a foreign ace, they were still looking at him as a possible second starter. In early November, however, most of the teams backed off. Suarez’s agent confirmed that “Suarez is looking to return to the United States.” To date, there has reportedly been no change of heart. “The player seems to be firm in his intention to go to the United States,” said one club representative, adding that they have taken him off their list.

This could be Suarez’s last chance to return to the United States. He turns 35 next year. Any later and he may not be able to return to the United States at all. There is hope, however, as more and more former KBO players are finding success in the United States. While it’s difficult to get a guaranteed major league contract, there are cases of players returning to the major leagues with minor league contracts. This is the case with Ben Lively, who also played for Samsung.

Suarez’s time in the majors is a distant memory. Suarez made his major league debut for San Francisco in 2016, going 3-5 with a 4.29 ERA in 22 games (12 starts) in his rookie season. But the momentum didn’t carry over. The following year, in 2017, he went 3-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 18 games before disappearing from the major leagues. He has since pitched in Japan and South Korea, and if he does return to the majors next year, it will be for the first time in seven years.

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