KBO sets salary cap for 1st time

November 14, 2022

SEOUL, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) — In an unprecedented move designed to ensure a level playing field, the top South Korean baseball league announced Monday it has set a salary cap for the next three seasons.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said the cap from the 2023 to 2025 seasons will be 11,426,380,000 won (US$8.64 million).

The league office settled on this figure based on the average of the combined annual salaries for the 40 highest-paid players on each club for the past two seasons, excluding rookies and foreign players.

Members of the SSG Landers celebrate their Korean Series championship at Incheon SSG Landers Field in Incheon, 30 kilometers west of Seoul, on Nov. 8, 2022. (Yonhap)

The KBO said it will levy financial penalties on violators. The first time a team’s payroll exceeds the salary cap, the team must pay 50 percent of the amount by which it exceeded the limit. A repeat offender will be fined the same amount of money that exceeds the cap and that team will fall nine slots in the first round of the following year’s rookie draft.

For the third offense and beyond, teams must pay 150 percent of the amount that went over the cap and drop nine spots in the next year’s draft.

Based on the 2022 payrolls, the SSG Landers topped the KBO with over 24.8 billion won, more than twice the salary cap. However, some of the multiyear contracts they handed out to veterans are frontloaded, meaning their payroll for 2023 should fall significantly.

For 2022, two other clubs, the Samsung Lions and the NC Dinos, had payrolls that would have exceeded the salary cap.

At the other end, the Hanwha Eagles only had a 5.01 billion won payroll for 2022 and they are expected to be an aggressive player in free agency, which opens Thursday.