With Manny Ramirez having departed nearly a month ago and weeknight attendances showing noticeable declines, the talk around the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) has been the possible return of former major leaguer Kuo Hung-chih to Taiwan before the end of the season.
At least three clubs have approached Kuo’s agent in an effort to lure the lefty fireballer back home. Kuo, who played several seasons in the majors, despite multiple arm surgeries, would definitely boost flagging interest in the game since Ramirez’s exit, even though the 31-year-old Taiwanese is currently training on his own, having not been claimed by a team in the US.
Previous league regulations meant Kuo could not be declared a free agent until he had fulfilled a nine-year service requirement in Taiwan or a six-year service record in the highest professional league of a different country. The league imposed the restrictions in an effort to prevent players from “hopping from team to team” to boost their contracts.
The league held a meeting of its four team owners and commissioner to amend the six-year service requirement in a foreign league to clear Kuo’s eligibility last month, a ruling known as the “Kuo Clause.”
The sky could now be the limit as far as the terms of any contract for the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher are concerned. Even though figures of NT$7 million to NT$8 million (US$234,000 to US$267,500) per year have been floating around, which would easily make Kuo the highest paid player in the league, he has not committed to any offers as he is still more inclined to remain abroad.
“We are continuing our efforts to sign [Kuo] before the end of the season,” Uni-President president Su Tai-an said earlier this week.
His team may be the favorites in the pursuit of Kuo, who comes from Greater Tainan and played his high school ball for Tainan’s Nan Ying Vocational Senior High School before to going to the US in 1999.
Also in hot pursuit of Kuo are the EDA Rhinos, who lost Ramirez last month after experiencing a big upturn in fortunes following the addition of the former major league MVP to their roster.
Regardless of who obtains Kuo’s services if and when he does return home, the team will be expected to give up three draft choices in the ensuing amatuer draft to “compensate” the rest of the league for the signing of such a high profile player, according to the details of the “Kuo Clause.”
Kuo, who was part of the Taiwanese team at the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, signed a one year non-guaranteed deal with the Seattle Mariners in February last year, but was released a month later.
He signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs in June last year, but was released the following month.
Additional reporting by staff writer