South Korean reliever Woo Suk Go is nearing an agreement with the Padres, reports Jon Heyman of the New York Post (X link). It appears to be a major league contract, as Heyman suggests Go could serve as San Diego’s closer next season.
Go, a 25-year-old righty, has pitched parts of seven seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization. He has worked as a pure reliever throughout that time, operating as the closer for the LG Twins for the past five years. After struggling during his first two seasons as a teenager, Go has been a solid bullpen arm for a half-decade.
He has rattled off four seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA, including three campaigns allowing fewer than 2.20 earned runs per nine. Go surpassed 30 saves in each of 2019, ’21 and ’22. He has fanned more than 26% of batters faced in each of the last five years, topping the 30% mark in the last two seasons.
While Go has consistently shown the ability to miss bats, he hasn’t always been around the strike zone. He has walked more than 10% of opposing hitters in four of his seven seasons. Go issued free passes to an alarming 11.6% of batters faced last year, contributing to a 3.68 ERA that made for more of a solid than exceptional platform showing.
Public scouting reports have generally pegged Go as a likely middle reliever at the big league level. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs writes that Go leans primarily on a mid-90s fastball and low-90s cutter while occasionally mixing in a curveball. That’s an intriguing arsenal, but the fringy control could make him a risk in higher-leverage spots.
San Diego has been one of the sport’s most aggressive teams in targeting players making the jump from Asian professional leagues. They recently signed lefty Yuki Matsui to a five-year, $28MM pact as he came over from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. It seems unlikely Go would match that kind of deal, but the Friars are clearly intrigued by his youth and swing-and-miss potential.
With Josh Hader, Nick Martinez and Luis García hitting free agency, the Padres have Matsui and Robert Suarez (another former NPB signee) as their top two leverage relievers. Go, assuming a contract is finalized, could join that mix alongside righty Enyel De Los Santos — whom San Diego acquired from the Guardians in exchange for Scott Barlow this winter.
In addition to what they’d pay Go, San Diego would owe a release fee to the LG Twins under the MLB/KBO posting system. If the total guarantee is less than $25MM, the posting fee would be 20% of the contract’s value. If the guarantee topped $25MM, they’d owe 17.5% of the next $25MM. They’d owe 15% on any spending beyond $50MM, but it’s highly unlikely that Go received a deal approaching that level.