By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Feb. 23 (Yonhap) -- Former major league All-Star outfielder Choo Shin-soo is coming home.
Choo has signed with the new Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club to be owned by Shinsegae Group, the retail giant announced Tuesday. Shinsegae will take over the SK Wyverns from the mobile carrier SK Telecom, with the new club name and uniform to be unveiled sometime next month.
Shinegae said Choo agreed to a 2.7 billion-won (US$2.4 million) contract and that he has offered to donate 1 billion won of that to charity.
Choo's annual salary is the largest in KBO history, surpassing the 2.5 billion won earned by Choo's childhood friend, Lee Dae-ho, in 2020 for the Lotte Giants.
Choo, 38, spent 16 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB). After signing with the Seattle Mariners out of high school as a pitcher in 2000, Choo made his big league debut as an outfielder with the same club in 2005. He also went on to play for the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and lastly Texas Rangers.
Choo became a free agent after his seven-year deal with the Rangers expired following the 2020 season.
The Wyverns own rights to Choo in a special draft held in April 2007 for overseas-based players, which meant if Choo chose to play in the KBO, he had to play for the Wyverns for at least one season.
Shinsegae announced its purchase of the ballclub last month, and the group immediately went to work on acquiring Choo.
"We heard from our fans who wanted to see Choo Shin-soo play for the team," the group said. "Our negotiations picked up traction last week, and the deal was finalized recently."
Choo said he'd received offers from a few MLB clubs, but he ultimately decided to write a new chapter in his career.
"Playing in Korea was going to be a new turning point, and I had to think long and hard about it," Choo said in a statement released by the team. "The direction that Shinsegae Group will be taking with the new club, and the sincerity that it showed, made the difference for me."
Choo is scheduled to arrive in South Korea on Thursday and will join the ballclub in spring training after serving his 14-day quarantine, mandated for all international arrivals during the coronavirus pandemic.
Choo batted .275/.377/.447 with 218 home runs and 782 RBIs in 1,652 career big league games. He holds the records for most MLB homers and RBIs by an Asian-born player.
Choo earned his first and only All-Star selection in 2018, during which he set a franchise record with a 52-game on-base streak.