The Braves were working to finalize a contract with an 18-year-old Korean shortstop whom scouts believe could be the best amateur player from his country in many years.
A person familiar with the situation said the Braves are close to signing Jihwan Bae, who turned 18 in July and was projected to be a first-round draft pick in the Korean Baseball Organization this week.
He would likely get a signing bonus of around $300,000 from the Braves and become one of the few top young Korean players to skip playing in his country and sign with a major league team.
The Braves currently have a $300,000 spending limit on international free agents after far exceeding their bonus pool amount a year ago when they made a bevy of high-profile signings including top-rated Venezuelan teen shortstop prospect Kevin Maitan.
Bae is said to have outstanding speed and ability to handle the bat and make contact. The Braves, led by special assistant Chad MacDonald and and team’s scouts in Asia, were one of the first major league teams to begin following Bae and express an interest in signing him after he recently graduated from high school.
The Braves expressed their intentions of becoming more aggressive and wide-ranging in their international scouting around the world when they begin their current organizational rebuilding project three years ago. MacDonald was one of their initial hires to that end.
They signed the top available international free agent in the 2016 signing period when they landed Maitan, who’s now 17 and just completed his first season of rookie ball in the United States. Maitan could stay at shortstop or eventually switch positions to third base or a corner-outfield spot.